TriArtisan Capital Partners is in the lead to acquire CKE, the restaurant group that owns the Carl's Jr. and Hardees fast food chains, in a deal approaching $2 billion, according to people familiar with the matter.
The little known private equity firm, a unit of investment bank Morgan Joseph, has emerged as the frontrunner in an auction that also drew interest from Roark Capital Group, Carlyle Group and Onex, the people said on Monday, adding that the process is in the final stages.
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Apollo Global Management, which took CKE private for nearly $700 million in 2010, is considering a sale of the company after postponing plans for an initial public offering last year, Reuters reported in July.
Discussions with TriArtisan may yet fall apart and Apollo could still turn to other interested parties or pursue an IPO instead as valuations for newly public restaurant chains such as Noodles and Potbelly remain strong, the people cautioned, asking not to be named because the process is confidential.
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CKE, Onex, Carlyle and Roark Capital could not be reached for comment. TriArtisan Partners and Apollo declined to comment.