Mrs. Fields Names New Board As Brands Evolve

Mrs. Fields Famous Brands, franchisor of the Mrs. Fields cookie and TCBY frozen yogurt chains, named a new board of directors Friday following a recapitalization last month that brought in two investment firms as majority stakeholders.

Chicago-based private-equity firm Z Capital Partners and global asset management firm The Carlyle Group on Dec. 13 completed an exchange offer and refinancing that Mrs. Fields officials said puts the sweet-treat brands on solid financial footing for growth.

Terms were not disclosed, but the two investor groups emerged holding a majority of the company's $65 million in senior secured notes due in 2014. The Carlyle Group has held a stake in Mrs. Fields since 2008.

Salt Lake City-based Mrs. Fields franchises or licenses more than 950 stores throughout the United States and in 23 foreign countries.

The new board of directors includes Robert Morrison, former chair, president and chief executive of The Quaker Oats Co. and an operating partner of Z Capital; James Zenni, president and chief executive of Z Capital; Michael Stewart, managing director of The Carlyle Group; Christopher Kipley, managing director of Z Capital; and David Barr, an existing director who is chair of Rita Restaurants LLC and PMTD Restaurants LLC.

Incumbent board chairman Bruce Pettet remains in that role, which he has held since 2010, the company said. Pettit is president and chief executive of Collective Licensing International LLC, a youth-lifestyle performance and licensing firm.

The board will continue to work with Tim Casey, president and chief executive of Mrs. Fields, who joined the company in 2010, the company said.

"As we head into 2012, our focus is clear: exceed the expectations of our loyal customers through product innovation and great brand experiences; deliver on franchise support across Mrs. Fields and TCBY; and grow our consumer and franchise bases domestically and internationally," Casey said in a statement.

"We have tremendous financial partners in Z Capital Partners and The Carlyle Group and two long-standing brands that have the potential to shape their respective segments, domestically and internationally," he added.

The cookie and yogurt brands came together in early 2000 under the ownership of Greenwich, Conn.-based Capricorn Holdings. An affiliate of the investment fund bought Mrs. Fields' cookie empire in 1996 and later added the Pretzel Time chain, Great American Cookie and TCBY.

Later, ownership of Mrs. Fields Original Cookies Inc. and TCBY Enterprises Inc. were merged. In 2008, Capricorn exited as the company underwent a debt-for-equity swap that was followed that year by a brief Chapter 11 reorganization.

Mrs. Fields emerged from bankruptcy with a plan that called for the exchange of $195 million in bondholder debt for $87.5 million in cash, $52.5 million in new notes and 87.5 percent of the company's new stock.

At the time, the company franchised or licensed more than 1,200 locations.

Recently, the company has been working to re-energize the two brands.

TCBY last year launched a more healthful Super Fro-Yo product and has been growing a new self-service prototype with an updated design, new logo and brand identity. TCBY also signed a 200-store franchise deal in Texas.

The Carlyle Group's restaurant holdings include stakes in Dunkin' Brands Inc. and Shari's Management Corp., parent of the Shari's Restaurant & Pies chain.

Z Capital Partners' restaurant investments include a minority stake in Real Mex Restaurants, parent of the El Torito, Chevys Fresh Mex and Acapulco brands, which is up for a Chapter 11 bankruptcy auction later this month.

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