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Morton's Restaurant Group explores possible sale

The Chicago-based upscale steakhouse chain says it is considering strategic alternatives to boost shareholders' value.

March 16, 2011|Bloomberg News

Morton's Restaurant Group Inc., the Chicago-based upscale steakhouse chain, said it was exploring strategic alternatives to boost shareholders' value, including a potential sale of the company.

Morton's, created in 1978 by Arnie Morton and Klaus Fritsch, has the support of Castle Harlan Inc. and Laurel Crown Partners, its two largest shareholders, and retained Jefferies & Co. as a financial advisor, the company said.

Sales started rising again last year after two years of declines during the recession as diners reduced spending on high-end restaurants. The chain, which had a market value of $109 million as of Tuesday, is joining the Arby's roast-beef-sandwich chain in seeking a buyer after Burger King Holdings Inc. was taken private in a $3.93-billion deal in October.

A buyer may be interested in Morton's for its "long operating history" and "brand cachet," said Bryan Elliott, an analyst at St. Petersburg, Fla.-based Raymond James & Associates Inc.

The company's shares rose 76 cents to $7.20.

Morton's was taken private by buyout firm Castle Harlan for $71.2 million in 2002 after a bidding contest with billionaire financier Carl Icahn. The company sold shares to the public four years later.

Morton's has 77 restaurants in the U.S., Puerto Rico and internationally. It added a location in Shanghai last year.

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