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Shareholders approve Friendly buyout

WILBRAHAM Mass. Shareholders in Friendly Ice Cream Corp., the operator or franchisor of 515 Friendly’s family-dining restaurants, approved on Wednesday a buyout of the company by Sun Capital Partners Inc. affiliate Freeze Operations Inc. in a deal valued at $337.2 million, including debt.

The transaction, which was first proposed in June and calls for Friendly shareholders to receive $15.50 per share in cash, is expected to close Thursday. Based on the preliminary results from the restaurant company’s annual shareholder meeting, about 98.5 percent of the ballots, which represented 6.7 million shares, were cast in favor of the merger, the company reported.

When the deal was announced, Friendly had said that activist investor Sardar Biglari, chairman of Western Sizzlin’ Corp. and head of The Lion Fund, entities through which he held a 15-percent stake in Friendly, would vote in favor of the deal. Biglari had been pushing Friendly to explore strategic options, which the company started to do in March.

Other shareholders, including company chairman Donald Smith and the Friendly’s concept co-founder, S. Prestley Blake, who had battled over the future of the company, also both voted in favor of the transaction. Together, Smith, Biglari and Blake controlled more than 50 percent of the company’s shares.

Earlier this month, Friendly also reported that its note holders had delivered consent for the acquisition.

Sun Capital is a private-equity fund based in Boca Raton, Fla., that has invested in or managed more than 155 companies with aggregate sales of more than $35 billion. The company’s restaurant holdings include Bruegger’s, Fazoli’s, Garden Fresh and Real Mex Restaurants, among others. The company closed on its purchase of Boston Market Corp. from former parent company McDonald’s Corp. earlier this month. Terms of that deal were not disclosed.

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