Daily News: May 19, 2014

GE Capital, Others Commit to Red Lobster Debt Financing

Darden Restaurants announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to sell its Red Lobster business and certain other related assets and assumed liabilities to Golden Gate Capital for $2.1 billion in cash.

According to the news release, Golden Gate Capital obtained committed debt financing from Deutsche Bank AG, Jefferies and GE Capital, and has fully executed a separate $1.5 billion sale-leaseback agreement with American Realty Capital Properties, the proceeds of which will be used to support the financing of Golden Gate Capital’s purchase of Red Lobster.

Darden expects to receive net cash proceeds, after tax and transaction costs, of approximately $1.6 billion, of which approximately $1.0 billion will be used to retire outstanding debt. The remaining net proceeds of approximately $500 million to $600 million will be deployed for a new share repurchase program of up to $700 million in fiscal 2015.

In addition, as previously announced, Darden has retained Alvarez & Marsal North America to assist with its operating support cost optimization efforts.

In a related news story, CNNMoney said hedge fund, Barington Capital, had been pushing to break Darden into two separate companies – one with the mature Olive Garden and Red Lobster brands and the other with faster growing chains like LongHorn Steakhouse. Barington CEO James Mitarotonda was quoted by CNNMoney as saying, “It is ‘unconscionable’ for Darden to agree to sell Red Lobster for what amounts to a ‘fire sale price’ in the face of shareholder demands for a say on a transaction.”

“Red Lobster is an exceptionally strong brand with an unparalleled market position in seafood casual dining,” said Josh Olshansky, managing director at Golden Gate Capital. “Red Lobster is exactly the type of company in which we seek to invest given its great brand profile and strong management team.”

To read the entire news release, click here.

To read a related related CNNMoney story, click here.