Ampex Brands recently wrapped is acquisition of Au Bon Pain from Panera Bread, landing Ampex a 171 locations and franchising rights for another 131 restaurants. It’s a deal that also makes Ampex a franchisor for the first time in its 16-year history and gives it an international footprint.
Talking about the deal, Eric Easton, CFO at Ampex Brands, says the company has been looking for an opportunity to move further into the company-owned aspect of the business, where partners operate or own the businesses and Ampex invests in them, as well as the franchisor space because the bulk of its operating restaurants are in the franchisee space. The acquisition gives the company a foot in the door in the franchisor space as well as the operating company space as well.
“One of the things that we think about, which is different than most restaurant companies, is we see ourselves more of as an investment company that happens to be great restauranters,” Easton says. “We look at lots of different things. And a big play for us is not necessarily, do to brands fit together and the synergies that they provide specifically, although it's something we look at, but in particular with Au Bon Pain, it provides above-store or G&A synergies for us at the home office. And that G&A leverage that we generate from that is a big part of our strategy as well.
Jayne Juvan, M&A chair at Tucker Ellis, the law firm that represented Ampex through the acquisition process, was immediately excited about the possibilities this deal creates.
“When the deal first hit my desk, I thought the opportunity here is limitless,” she says. “This has the chance to just be a win-win for everyone — a win for the brand and a win for Ampex.”
But Juvan says she had to check her excitement because dealmakers need to avoid getting too emotionally invested in deals in order to make sure that they're giving good advice and ensure deals are done for the right reasons — that the fundamentals make sense.
“This one was hard to emotionally divorce myself from, quite frankly,” she says. “It was a deal that was just so easy to fall in love with it because you could just see that opportunity.”
However, success wasn’t guaranteed from the start. She says a deal such as this one has a lot of potential suitors. In a competitive process, even if you have the best intentions, that doesn't necessarily mean that you cross the finish line first.Easton and Juvan talked on the Smart Business Dealmakers Podcast about Ampex’s acquisition of Au Bon Pain — how the process went down, the challenges they faced and how Ampex intends to leverage this new opportunity. Hit play on the podcast below to check out the full conversation.