BANGKOK -- The world's largest canned tuna producer Thai Union announced that it, together with Seafood Alliance, will take a 36% stake in U.S. restaurant chain Red Lobster.
Thai Union, which already has a 25% stake in Red Lobster, hopes that greater control of the chain will allow it to increase synergies with its core seafood processing business through product development and the expansion of suppliers.
Thai Union and Seafood Alliance will buy the stake from U.S. private equity firm Golden Gate Capital by the end of September. They have not disclosed the purchase price. Rit Thirakomen, chairman of MK Restaurant Group, and former Minor Food CEO Paul Kenny are among retail investors who are in the alliance.
In 2016, Thai Union invested $575 million in Red Lobster for the 25% stake and preferred shares that could be converted into common shares within 10 years for another 24%. If those preferred shares are converted, Thai Union will hold 85% of Red Lobster shares.
"The Red Lobster brand is strong, with unmatched awareness and millions of loyal guests and we believe it has tremendous long-term potential," said Thai Union CEO Thiraphong Chansiri.
The move marks a drastic change for Thai Union that had been cautious about taking a majority stake in any restaurant business due to its lack of expertise in the industry.