Axum Capital Partners (Axum), a Charlotte-based private equity firm, announced today that it has acquired a controlling interest in Wild Wing Cafe — a 32-unit restaurant company based in Mount Pleasant, S.C.
Wild Wing Cafe operates 11 corporate-owned restaurants and 21 franchised restaurants across North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia, Texas, and Florida. For fiscal year ending December 31, 2011, Wild Wing Cafe generated approximately $100 million in system-wide sales. Fifth Third Bank provided debt financing for the transaction. McGuireWoods, LLP, represented Axum.
Edna Morris, a managing director with Axum, will become the interim chief executive officer of Wild Wing Cafe. Edna is a 30-year veteran of the restaurant industry, having served as president of Red Lobster (Darden) and Quincy’s Family Steakhouse (Advantica). She was a founding member and the first president of the Women’s Foodservice Forum and also president of the James Beard Foundation, a non-profit organization that celebrates America’s culinary heritage. She is on the board of Tractor Supply Company.
“Wild Wing Cafe provides Axum with a proven and well-run concept allowing for strong growth in existing and new markets,” Morris said. “Our experienced management team has over 120 years of restaurant experience. With Wild Wing’s broad demographic appeal, quality food and superior service, we believe that the concept will sustain and continue to strengthen its competitive position.”
Since its inception in 1990, Wild Wing Cafe has established a strong brand based on its ability to offer consumers high-quality food at attractive prices. The brand is also known for its sports and entertainment component. This will enable Axum to utilize its unique access to the professional athlete community to enhance the brand. Wild Wing Cafe is also known for featuring live local and national bands, as evidenced by numerous performances by Edwin McCain. Wild Wing has often been referred to as a “breeding ground” for local recording artists.
Wild Wing Cafe founders Cecil and Dianne Crowley will retain an ownership stake in the company and will serve on the board. According to Cecil Crowley, he and his wife Dianne founded Wing Wild Cafe two decades ago based on the idea that people would flock to a place that served the best flavored wings, cold beer and good times. “We’re not flying the coop,” said Dianne Crowley. “We look forward to working with the Axum team to continue growing this wonderful brand.”
“This is a great partnership for our firm. We’ve developed a strong relationship with the Crowleys and share a similar vision regarding the future of Wild Wing Cafe. In addition, this transaction reflects Axum’s strategy and what we set out to do. By targeting specific sectors, we’ve been able to establish a team that is uniquely suited to effectively execute our firm’s investment strategy. Edna’s extensive expertise, strong leadership and broad-based relationships enabled us to quickly and properly evaluate this opportunity and develop an effective growth strategy,” said Muhsin “Moose” Muhammad, a managing director at Axum and former pro football player for the Chicago Bears and the Carolina Panthers.