Axum Capital Partners, a Charlotte, N.C. based private equity firm, announced today that its portfolio company Wild Wing Cafe has tapped two veteran executives of national restaurant brands to assume key posts. Wild Wing Cafe, the 33-unit restaurant company based in Mount Pleasant, S.C., was acquired by Axum in January 2012.
William E. Prather, former CEO of Hardees and executive vice president and head of worldwide operations for Burger King, will become the new Wild Wing Cafe chief executive officer. David A. Leonardo, former franchise development executive for Wendy’s, Arby’s and Burger King, will join the company as its chief development officer.
Wild Wing Cafe operates 11 company-owned and 22 franchised-owned restaurants across seven states. Wild Wing generated approximately $100 million in system-wide sales in 2011.
Edna Morris, a managing director with Axum, who has been interim CEO of Wild Wing Cafe since January and who managed the search, said, “We are thrilled Bill has joined our team. His extraordinary accomplishments across multiple segments in the restaurant business will be key to executing the growth vision we have for Wild Wing. In addition to his real passion for the concept, he brings corporate, entrepreneurial, high growth and franchise experience to our company.” Morris is a former president of both Red Lobster and Quincy’s Family Steakhouse.
Since his posts with Hardee’s and Burger King, Prather has developed, owned and managed several restaurant chains of different concepts based in Texas and Arizona. He and his wife Marna plan to relocate to the Charleston area.
Leonardo, who will operate out of Miami, Fla., will be responsible for Wild Wing’s national franchise growth strategy. In addition to working for three of the top quick service restaurant brands in the country, David worked in investment banking for JP Morgan Chase in New York. “David has built strong, sustainable franchise partnerships throughout his career for Wendy’s, Arby’s and Burger King. We look forward to him bringing these skills to Wild Wing. We’ve got a strong brand and we’re positioned to expand,” Morris said.
Since its inception in 1990, the Wild Wing Cafe experience has grown by offering consumers high-quality food at attractive prices. The brand is also known for its sports and entertainment component. This enables Axum to utilize its unique access to the professional athlete community to enhance the brand. Wild Wing Cafe is also known for featuring live local and national bands and has often been referred to as a “breeding ground” for local recording artists.
“Our ability to quickly add a strong and experienced CEO such as Bill, who has a national view of the restaurant business to the Wild Wing team, reflects Axum’s vision for creating value within our portfolio companies and effectively executing our firm’s investment strategy,” said Muhsin “Moose” Muhammad, a managing director of Axum and former pro football player for the Chicago Bears and the Carolina Panthers.
Founded by Cecil and Dianne Crowley in Hilton Head Island in 1990, the Wild Wing Cafe concept is based on the idea that people will flock to a place that serves the best flavored wings, cold beer and good times. The company now has 11 company-owned and 22 franchised-owned restaurants across North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia, Texas and Florida. The newest Wild Wing opened the weekend of March 9 in Cary, N.C. For more information visit: www.wildwingcafe.com.
Axum Capital Partners is a private equity firm focused on making strategic equity investments in lower middle market privately held businesses across North America. Axum’s target markets include food and beverage, educational services and other markets that share similar characteristics. To execute its well-defined investment strategy, Axum has brought together a best-in-class and diverse team with deep industry expertise, robust transaction execution capabilities and a unique ability to create value in its portfolio through its access to the professional athlete community. The firm was co-founded by Edna Morris (former president of Red Lobster and Quincy’s Family Steakhouse and the James Beard Foundation), Raymond C. Groth (former head of mergers and acquisitions at First Union/Wachovia Securities, now Wells Fargo), Muhsin Muhammad II (former Chicago Bear and Carolina Panther), and Denis Ackah-Yensu (formerly with McColl Partners and Citigroup). For more information visit: www.axum-partners.com.