Axum Capital Partners, a private-equity firm in Charlotte, N.C., on Wednesday acquired a controlling interest in the 32-unit casual-dining wings specialist, Wild Wing Café.
Restaurant veteran Edna Morris, a managing director at Axum, was named interim chief executive of the Mount Pleasant, S.C.-based Wild Wing, while Wild Wing Café founders Cecil and Dianne Crowley will retain an ownership stake in the company and will serve on the board. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Wild Wing Café, founded in 1990, operates 11 company-owned and franchises 21 other stores in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.
Axum said Wild Wing Café generated about $100 million in systemwide sales in 2011. Fifth Third Bank provided debt financing for the deal.
Axum was founded two years ago by Morris, who is the former president of Red Lobster and Quincy’s Family Steakhouse and led the James Beard Foundation; Raymond C. Groth, the former head of mergers and acquisitions at First Union/Wachovia Securities, now Wells Fargo; former professional football player Muhsin “Moose” Muhammad II; and Denis Ackah-Yensu, who was formerly with McColl Partners and Citigroup.
Muhammad, who played wide receiver with the Carolina Panthers and the Chicago Bears, said Wild Wing Café has a sports component that made it an interesting investment.
“But the No. 1 thing is the food,” Muhammad said. “This brand was built around great recipes. The founder, Dianne Crowley, created all these great recipes. The restaurant started from a Super Bowl party 20 years, and they decided to create this business. It really became a great concept. The franchisees felt the same way.”
Morris spoke further about the concept and acquisition with Nation’s Restaurant News:
What kind of investments is Axum looking at?
Axum is focused on two primary sectors: education services and restaurants. Those are areas that focus on basic needs and are more apt to stand up during downturns in the economy.