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Fund started by former McDonald’s CEO acquires PizzaRev

Cleveland Avenue LLC, begun by Don Thompson, acquires majority stake in fast-casual chain

Don Thompson is getting into the pizza business.

Cleveland Avenue LLC, a Chicago-based accelerator that invests in restaurant, food and beverage concepts, has acquired a majority stake in the fast-casual pizza chain PizzaRev.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“This is more than investment; this is a partnership,” Thompson said in a statement. “Our mission is to provide collaborative expertise and educational, practical and financial resources to our network of entrepreneurs and industry partners. We’re delighted to join forces with PizzaRev and begin working together toward achieving long-term sustained success.”

Thompson added that Cleveland Avenue invested in PizzaRev “because of its potential for scale and growth.”

Speculation of a potential sale of PizzaRev has been rampant for several months. Buffalo Wild Wings Inc., the Minneapolis-based chicken wing chain, made an investment in PizzaRev in 2013, when the fast-casual pizza chain had just three locations.

"We made the decision to sell our minority stake in PizzaRev," Buffalo Wild Wings CEO Sally Smith said in an emailed statement. "Buffalo Wild Wings’ strategy to invest in emerging brands has been focused on the opportunity to share best practices and strategically participate in the growth of exciting brands. We have enjoyed collaborating with PizzaRev and are confident that Cleveland Avenue is the right partner to position PizzaRev for continued success."

Buffalo Wild Wings stopped expanding the chain last year. And earlier this year, the company closed its PizzaRev locations in Minnesota.

Buffalo Wild Wings has been making changes in recent months as an activist shareholder, Marcato Capital, has sought seats on the chain’s board of directors.

PizzaRev grew rapidly after the Buffalo Wild Wings investment, and currently has 200 locations under development. The chain currently has more than 50 locations, fewer than its fast-casual pizza rivals MOD Pizza, Blaze Pizza and Pie Five.

Nicholas Eckerman, who co-founded the chain in 2012, hopes the deal with Cleveland Avenue can take the chain to the “next level.”

“Our focus is always on our customers and giving them delicious, unexpected and quality choices in this pizza revolution we created,” Eckerman said in a statement. “Cleveland Avenue’s team has the industry expertise, versatile resources and strategic vision we need at this crucial juncture in PizzaRev’s growth.”

Update: May 22, 2017  This story has been updated with a comment from Buffalo Wild Wings CEO Sally Smith. 

Contact Jonathan Maze at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @jonathanmaze

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