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Late bidder emerges to top offer for CKE

By   /   Wednesday, April 7th, 2010  /   Comments Off on Late bidder emerges to top offer for CKE

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Hold the lettuce.

The emergence of a late bidder has frozen private equity firm Thomas H. Lee’s plans to take Carpinteria-based CKE Restaurants private for $11.09 per share.

The parent company of Carl’s Jr. and Hardees said April 7 it had received a late bid that was likely to top THL’s best offer, an announcement that sent the stock soaring 77 cents to $11.86 per share in trading at mid-day.

CKE had until April 6 to shop around for a better deal than the THL offer, which included a hefty breakup fee. That fee would amount to a $15.5 million payment to THL and up to $5 million of THL’s costs.

CKE has been struggling with declining sales at its California-dominated Carl’s Jr. chain, reflecting the state’s weak economy.

On Feb. 26, CKE agreed to a buyout by Boston-based THL for $928 million in cash and the assumption of $309 million in net debt. The deal represents a payout for the underperforming burger maker’s battered shareholders and executives.

At the time of the February announcement, CKE Chief Executive Officer Andrew Puzder sought to reassure the 179 employees at CKE’s oceanfront headquarters on Carpinteria Avenue that no major shifts were planned.

“CKE’s management team will remain in place. In essence, not much should change in your day-to-day work experience at CKE,” Puzder wrote in a letter to CKE employees. “[W]e look forward to continuing our great work together for many, many years.”

THL could yet emerge victorious by raising its bid or adding other sweeteners to the deal.

The beginning of a small bidding war for CKE would fly in the face of conventional wisdom that the current buyout market is still feeling the effects of the Wall Street meltdown.

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