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Benihana to go private in $296M deal

Benihana to go private in $296M deal

Angelo, Gordon & Co. Private Equity Group has agreed to acquire the company

Benihana Inc. said Tuesday it has agreed to go private in a $296 million deal with the New York-based Angelo, Gordon & Co. Private Equity Group.

Angelo Gordon agreed to acquire Miami-based Benihana's common stock for $16.30 per share in cash, a 22.6-percent premium over Monday’s close of $13.30 per share. Benihana’s shares had traded between $6.76 and $16.59 in the past 52 weeks.

The company had announced in mid-March that it was looking at strategic alternatives, including a sale. Under the terms of the Angelo Gordon agreement, Benihana can solicit and consider other offers through July 1. However, the company said it would expect the Angelo Gordon deal to close in the second half of this calendar year.

“Benihana has a great brand heritage and delivers a unique customer experience across its three restaurant concepts,” said Richard Leonard, a managing director at Angelo Gordon. “We believe the market for Japanese cuisine is significant and expanding, and our plan is to help the company realize its growth potential over the next several years.”

Benihana has considered pursuing a sale twice in the past two years. In July 2010, the company said it would explore strategic options and put itself on the market that fall, following shareholder battles that reportedly resulted in the removal of concept founder Rocky Aoki’s family trust among top shareholders.

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“Our management and restaurant professionals have done a tremendous job of accelerating and strengthening performance through our renewal efforts,” said Richard C. Stockinger, Benihana's chairman, president and chief executive, in a statement.

Jefferies & Co. Inc. is serving as exclusive financial advisor in the current deal and Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP is serving as legal advisor to Benihana. Kirkland & Ellis LLP is serving as Angelo Gordon's legal advisor.

Benihana reported sales of $91.9 million in the quarter ended April 1, up from $81.4 million in the year-earlier quarter, which had one less operating week. Backing out the extra week put sales growth at 4.8 percent for the quarter, or $84.7 million. Same-store sales increased 6 percent at Benihana, 2.1 percent at RA Sushi and 2.4 percent at Haru, the company reported.

Benihana owns and operates 95 Japanese and sushi restaurants with 62 Benihanas, eight Haru sushi restaurants and 25 RA Sushi units. Another 16 Benihana restaurants are franchised in the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected].
Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless

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