Lion's Choice acquired by private equity groups

Sept. 4, 2013

Local businessman and former Lion's Choice executive Mark Disper, in partnership with the principals of St. Louis-based Millstone Capital Advisors, 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 chosen successor in the St. Louis-based private equity team.

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.

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.

"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," added 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."

Lion's Choice was founded in St. Louis in 1967 (then-Red Lion Beef House) by Gibbs, Art Morey and Clint Tobias.

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Topics: Business Strategy and Profitability , Financing and capital improvements , Operations Management

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