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Buyout Firm Takes Controlling Interest in Claim Jumper

October 14, 2005|Roger Vincent | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles buyout firm Leonard Green & Partners has purchased a majority interest in Claim Jumper Restaurants, the 35-store chain best known for its enormous portions.

Green acquired a controlling interest in Irvine-based Claim Jumper for $200 million to $250 million because of its potential for growth and strong track record with Southern California diners.

"The capital will be used to grow Claim Jumper Restaurants," Claim Jumper spokesman Larry Bill said. "It's going to be business as usual, no changes."

The privately held chain was controlled by the Nickoloff family, and will continue to be headed by Craig Nickoloff, who opened the first Claim Jumper in 1977 in Los Alamitos. The chain had sales of $226 million last year.

The company is about to open its 36th restaurant, in Thousand Oaks, and plans to expand into Chicago and the Midwest before heading to the East Coast. There are no plans for an initial public stock offering in the near future, Bill said.

"We are going to stay on relatively conservative growth path of opening five to six restaurants a year," Bill said. "That is a good model for Claim Jumper right now."

The last 10 restaurants the company opened are posting an average of $8 million in annual sales, he said. Competitors such as Outback Steakhouse, Chili's, Red Lobster and Applebee's average $2.5 million to $4 million per restaurant, although industry leader Cheesecake Factory restaurants bring in as much as $12 million in annual sales.

Other businesses that Green has invested in include flower retailer FTD Group Inc., drugstore operator Rite-Aid Corp. and mapmaker Rand McNally & Co.

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