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Irish firm buys Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group

Danu Partners opened London steakhouse location

Irish firm Danu Investment Partners Ltd. has acquired Boston-based Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group Inc. from a Bunker Hill Capital LP consortium, and sees opportunities for growing the upscale steakhouse brand, the two companies said Monday.

Dublin-based Danu already licensed the Smith & Wollensky name for a London restaurant that it opened in June 2015, the company said. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Danu now owns seven of the eight U.S. locations, including Boston; Chicago; Columbus, Ohio; Houston; Miami Beach, Fla.; and Las Vegas. Danu also obtained worldwide licensing rights to the Smith & Wollensky brand.

The New York Smith & Wollensky location, which opened in 1977, remains in founder Alan Stillman’s control via Quality Branded Restaurants, formerly known as Fourth Wall Restaurants, the company said. Stillman also founded the TGI Fridays concept.

“We've been huge admirers of this iconic brand for decades, having hosted a great number of business dinners cutting into S&W steak," said Leonard Ryan, one of three Danu principals, in a statement.

“It has incredible equity and enormous potential internationally,” Ryan said, “And there is still significant untapped potential in the U.S. for S&W and the emerging Wollensky's Grill concept.”

The Wollensky’s Grill concept was created in 2014 from the lower level of company’s Chicago restaurant.

Michael Feighery, president and CEO of Smith & Wollensky, said the grill was intended to broaden the steakhouse concept’s audience.

“We’re trying to make it more approachable for the guests,” Feighery said at the time. “We know the steakhouse segment is quite a commitment when it comes to cost and dining out. We want to make the grill a lighter, more casual version of the main dining room. It will be more accessible but still have a lot of the elements you would expect from the Smith & Wollensky dining experience.”

Danu’s Smith & Wollensky unit in London features elements that the company plans to borrow in future development, including two full bars, two main dining areas, a full butcher shop and an on-site dry-aging room.

Of the Danu deal, Feighery said in a statement: “To be partnered with a group of hospitality professionals that appreciate the ongoing need to invest in our people and our facilities is critical to our success. Danu has that insight and they share in our vision for growth both here and abroad.”

Danu also said Tommy Hart, who served as managing partner and general manager of Smith & Wollensky New York for 27 years, will join the SWRG board and advise the company on its development plans.

In 2007, Smith & Wollensky was taken private in a deal worth more than $90 million with private-equity firm Bunker Hill Capital. Patina Restaurant Group, originally reported as part of that deal, had a management contract to operate the restaurants, a company spokeswoman said Monday.

That deal resulted after a takeover attempt and bidding war with Landry’s Inc. of Houston.

Danu Investment Partners is an holding company founded in 2009 and with investments in a range of business sectors, including hospitality.

Correction: March 21, 2016  This story has been updated to correct Bunker Hill Capital’s ownership of Smith & Wollensky.

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

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