SAN ANTONIO, Texas (KWTX) BDT Capital Partners, LLC, a Chicago bank that advises and invests in family and founder-led companies, has agreed to acquire a majority interest in Whataburger, the iconic 69-year-old San Antonio-based restaurant chain announced Friday.
The family-owned company also announced several leadership changes “to position the the brand for long-term growth and success.”
“Whataburger has grown significantly over the years,” said Whataburger President and CEO Preston Atkinson.
“And, in order to keep satisfying our customers, we’ve been exploring different options to expand the brand and introduce it to new audiences. We’ve gone through this process purposefully and diligently because we wanted to find a partner who honors our values, culture and 69-year legacy of family tradition,” he said.
“We’re excited about the partnership with BDT because they respect and admire the brand we’ve built,” he said.
“They want to preserve it while they help us continue growing a sustainable, competitive business over a long period of time. They don’t plan to change our recipe for success.”
he bank will be key in providing strategic vision and long-term growth capital to the tenured Whataburger leadership team, the company said in a press release Friday.
Harmon Dodson opened the first Whataburger in 1950 on Ayers Street in Corpus Christi.
The Dobson family has operated the chain for nearly seven decades.
The chain now has 800 restaurants in 10 states, most of them, 676, in Texas.
"This is both exciting and bittersweet for the Dobson family. Whataburger has been the heart and soul of our family legacy for nearly 70 years, but we feel really good about the partnership with BDT," said Tom Dobson, the current board chair.
"They have a track record of success with businesses as special as ours that want to grow, while preserving culture and family history. They are trusted advisors and partners who have worked closely with other family businesses and they have a tremendous reputation for doing the right thing."
The chain’s headquarters will remain in San Antonio.
Leadership changes effective July 1
Ed Nelson, currently serving as chief financial officer and controller, will be promoted to president. Nelson joined Whataburger in 2004 as controller for the company. Since 2008, Nelson has been at the helm of Whataburger’s financial department as chief financial officer, overseeing all finance, accounting, treasury and business risk and reporting operations for 828 restaurants across 10 states. He holds both a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Clemson University.
Leonard Mazzocco, currently serving as vice president of business operations, will take on the role of senior vice president and chief operating officer. Mazzocco joined Whataburger in 1999 as the operations services director and has since guided efforts in brand management, marketing, human resources, supply chain, shared services and product development. He was promoted to his current role in 2014, where he has led strategic planning. Mazzocco is a graduate of Creighton University.
Rob Rodriguez, currently serving as senior vice president of restaurants, will assume the role of senior vice president and chief restaurant operating officer. A 30-year restaurant industry veteran, Rodriguez is an experienced multi-unit leader with a track record of delivering exceptional customer service. Under his guidance, his teams have successfully piloted new models used in concept revitalization, opened and expanded new restaurant markets, and surpassed sales forecasts. Rodriguez joined Whataburger in 2006 as a director of operations and was named a senior vice president in 2014.
James Turcotte, currently senior vice president of the real estate segment, will continue in his role and be promoted to chief development officer. Turcotte began his Whataburger career in 1998 as a director in the real estate division. He then took on the role of group director followed by vice president of franchise development. In 2004, Turcotte was named vice president of property and facilities to oversee new construction, enhancement and property management functions. Turcotte is a graduate of Texas A&M University.
Mike Sobel, currently vice president of retail, will be promoted to senior vice president of retail.
Sobel joined Whataburger in 2011 as the company's group director for supply chain solutions, before assuming his current role in 2014. Sobel brings almost 35 years of experience in supply chain, quality assurance and product development experience in the restaurant industry.
Michael Gibbs, currently senior vice president and general counsel, will continue his role as general counsel and will be promoted to executive vice president. Gibbs joined Whataburger in 2005 as the company's first ever in-house general counsel. Prior to joining Whataburger, he practiced corporate law and served as vice president and general counsel for a Detroit-based restaurant chain. He holds bachelor's degrees in biology and economics from Ripon College, as well as an MBA from Emory University, and a law degree from Wayne State University.