Updated: November 5, 2015 8:00 AM — Golden Gate Capital has an insatiable appetite for Red Lobster. A year after paying $2.1 billion to buy the iconic seafood brand and its related assets from Darden Restaurants, the San Francisco-based private equity firm is now focusing on acquiring leased properties.
GrowthSpotter was the first to report the sale of multiple Red Lobster restaurants in several key Florida markets - all from Phoenix-based VEREIT - and that GGC Real Estate Investments had taken out a $133 million mortgage with Wells Fargo to finance the acquisition of a large pool of restaurant properties.
Thursday morning, officials from Golden Gate confirmed the purchase of $204 million of Red Lobster properties from VEREIT. Sources close to the deal say the transaction involved about 50 restaurants. The two firms also announced a strategic partnership to "opportunistically divest an additional $400 million of properties by executing single- or multi-unit dispositions at accretive valuations."
In the last week, GGC has bought four Red Lobster restaurants in the Orlando market for a combined $13 million. GrowthSpotter has also found sales in Tampa, Miami and Lakeland totaling $14.7 million.
Two Orlando locations, at the Florida Mall and at 7373 W. Colonial Ave, were sold on Oct. 28. The two Kissimmee locations - at 4010 W. Vine St. and at 5690 W. Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway - sold on Nov. 2.
Red Lobster spokeswoman Erica Ettori said restaurants' operations would not be impacted as a result of the sale. Each transaction includes a lease agreement between GGC and Red Lobster Hospitality extending the lease through 2035, with options to renew through 2055.
VEREIT owned 43 Red Lobster restaurants in Florida, including all three Kissimmee locations and seven more in the Orlando market. Nationwide, the company owned nearly 500 locations.
In a release Thursday morning, Josh Cohen, managing director of Golden Gate Capital, said since the 2014 acquitision, Red Lobster has performed well as a company and individual same-store sales have grown for four consecutive quarters.
"The acquisition of these Red Lobster properties will generate attractive returns for our investors and reflects our continued confidence in the strength of the Red Lobster brand, its management team and the future growth prospects of the business," he said. "Red Lobster has made tremendous strides since the acquisition including refocusing on its core customers, developing new and exciting dishes for the whole family, and continuing its international expansion with 15 new restaurant openings."
Reporter Bob Moser contributed to this report.