Lion’s Choice Sold To PE

Local businessman and former Lion’s Choice executive Mark Disper, in partnership with the principals of St. Louis-based Millstone Capital Advisors, recently announced the purchase of assets from Red Lion Beef Corp., owner of the Lion’s Choice restaurant chain. While the new operating company will be named LC Corporate, LLC, the company will continue to operate under the name Lion’s Choice. Details of the purchase were not disclosed.

The agreement officially transitions the chain’s ownership from founder Dr. Marvin Gibbs to his hand-picked successor and a St. Louis-based private equity team poised to take Lion’s Choice into the next 46 years and beyond.

Mark Disper, through his investment fund Black Rock Holdings, LLC, will retain partial ownership of LC Corporate, LLC and serve as president and CEO of Lion’s Choice. Millstone Capital Advisors (through its investment fund FSM Fund I) will own the remaining share of LC Corporate, LLC. Two of the fund’s principals, Bob Millstone and Fred Flegel, will serve with Disper on the new company’s Board of Managers. In addition, Gibbs has agreed to serve as an advisor to the new company.

In 2000, Disper developed and built the first Lion’s Choice franchise and later joined the company as Vice President of Sales & Marketing and President of Franchise Operations. Tapped as the chain’s potential heir apparent by Gibbs, Disper reached out to the St. Louis investment community, eventually partnering with Flegel and Millstone in the new venture.

“What attracted me to Lion’s Choice as a franchise is what excites me most about my new ownership role in the company: the chain has earned a loyal following and fiercely loyal employees by adhering to solid business principles based on quality, nutritious food and great customer service,” said Disper. “Our team will preserve these core principles while utilizing our strength in the areas of operations, real estate, marketing research and finance to help make a beloved St. Louis brand more available to people in St. Louis and beyond.”

“After 46 years of ownership of Lion’s Choice, I’m thrilled to be leaving it in capable, caring hands,” said Gibbs. “Mark and the new ownership team have a passion for the Lion’s Choice brand and vision to take the business to a much higher level, and I have always admired the Millstone Family’s reputation in St. Louis.”

September 3, 2013