Burger King, the fast food giant, is returning to the public stock market, with the help of a UK-listed shell company whose star-studded board includes men with nicknames such as “The Homeless Billionaire”, “The Silver Fox” and “Doctor Doom”.
Justice Holdings Ltd, which floated on the London Stock Exchange last year under the chairmanship of the former City Minister Lord Myners, will pay $1.4bn (£882m) to acquire a 29 per cent stake in the burger chain from its current owner, the New York private equity firm 3G Capital.
Lord Myners said that Justice had looked far and wide for something to buy with its £900m cash pile, but settled on an investment that had been staring it in the face since the beginning. Justice backer and board member Bill Ackman, the activist investor dubbed the Silver Fox for his grey hair, already has a stake in Burger King, via a 3G investment fund.
Mr Ackman lauded the prospects for Burger King in a conference call with analysts, saying Justice was buying the business “at the bottom” in terms of customer revenues, and that the company could return to its glory days. “Burger King has had 13 chief executives in 25 years. It has not been particularly well run.” Under the management installed by 3G, all of whom will stay on, Burger King has been trying to revamp its menu to bring in healthy salads and wraps, as McDonald’s did years go, and plans to refurbish its tired-looking 12,500-strong restaurant portfolio. It also intends to sell the last remaining company-owned restaurants to franchisees, including 192 outlets in the UK, Spain and Germany.
Justice will now transfer its listing to the New York Stock Exchange, and rename itself Burger King Worldwide, giving investors a chance to buy a morsel of the company for the first time since 3G bought it two years ago. The deal values the chain at $5.5bn.
The Justice board of directors voted unanimously for the deal, Lord Myners said. Board members include Nicolas Berggruen, the German-born trader known as the Homeless Billionaire for travelling the world and living only in hotels, and Nouriel Roubini, the New York University economist whose predictions of crisis earned him the name “Doctor Doom”.
Mr Ackman will emerge as a 10 per cent shareholder in Burger King Worldwide, thanks to the stake his hedge fund Pershing already has in Justice and because 3G is converting his investment in its fund into Burger King shares that he will not cash in.