Sun Capital Looks To Sell Bagel Co. To French Businessman

Sun Capital Partners Inc. has a deal in the works with Louis Le Duff, the French businessman who founded Brioche Dorée, the chain of French casual food restaurants, and who cut his teeth in North America in the 1970s, according to Buyouts.

The firm has an agreement to sell Bruegger’s Enterprises Inc., a bakery cafe chain, to an affiliate of Groupe Le Duff, Le Duff’s company. “We believe that this merger represents a strategic opportunity to share expertise, support and resources between Bruegger’s, with its four brands in the U.S. and Canada and Groupe Le Duff, both established and successful leaders in the bakery café sector,” said Bruegger’s CEO Jim Greco as part of a statement provided to Buyouts.

The Burlington, Vermont-based company, which prides itself on being “the only national chain to make bagels using fresh dough and the traditional boil and bake process,” is ripe for exit, considering it’s been in Sun Capital’s portfolio since May 2003. Since then, Sun Capital has employed a buy-and-build strategy, with four add-on acquisitions: Outland Bagels and Alpine Bagels, two bagel retailers the company bought in June 2005; Bagel Factory Inc., a bagel bakery, acquired in 2008; and the retail operations of Timothy’s Coffees of the World, bought in 2009 for $4 million, according to Capital IQ.

Executives at Sun Capital declined to comment, while representatives for Le Duff did not respond to requests for comment by deadline.

Bruegger’s is a natural fit for Le Duff. Groupe Le Duff operates several health-inspired bakery and restaurant chains, including Bridor, a bread and pastry chain; Fournil De Pierre, a French bakery and pastry shop; and Brioche Dorée, which Le Duff started in Brest in 1976 and now operates more than 500 locations with 5,000 employees, according to Groupe Le Duff’s web site.

Le Duff also has a strong affinity for the U.S. He was born into a family of market gardeners and vegetable merchants in Léon, according to a lengthy biography on Groupe Le Duff’s Web site. In the 1970s he sought an MBA at the University of Sherbrooke near Montreal. There and in New York he learned how successful crapêries were, and he opened up one in a Quebec ski resort. Le Duff notes in his company biography that in America “anyone who really wants to set up in business can do so and succeed.”

Bernard Vaughan is a Senior Editor at Buyouts Magazine. Follow his tweets @BVaughanReuters. Follow Buyouts tweets @Buyouts. For information on how to subscribe, contact Greg Winterton at greg.winterton@thomsonreuters.com