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Sun Capital Sells Bruegger’s to Le Duff

Le Duff America also owns La Madeleine bakery-café chain

Sun Capital Partners Inc. has sold bagel specialist Bruegger’s Enterprises to Le Duff America Inc., the North American subsidiary of Groupe Le Duff SA, the companies said Friday. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The acquisition of the 437–unit Bruegger’s by Groupe Le Duff establishes the Rennes, France–based firm as one of the world’s largest bakery–café companies, with 1,100 restaurants and bakeries and sales of more than $1.5 billion.

In the United States and Canada, Le Duff operates the 60–unit La Madeleine, as well as such concepts as Ristorante del Arte, Brioche Dorée, Fournil de Pierre, Au Pain Doré and Ferme des Loges.

Based in Burlington, Vt., Bruegger’s system also includes Timothy’s Coffees of the World, which it acquired in November 2009. A private company, Bruegger’s reported that sales for its fourth quarter ended Dec. 28 rose 3.6 percent to $63.2 million compared with the same period a year ago. Same–store sales for the quarter rose 3.1 percent systemwide, and increased 4.3 percent at corporate locations.

Same–store sales at Bruegger’s Canadian subsidiary, Threecaf Brands Canada – which includes some 93 Timothy’s and 14 Michel’s Bakery Café outlets – rose 1.4–percent for the fourth quarter.
For the full year, Bruegger’s system sales totaled $254.5 million, up 2.8 percent over fiscal 2009.

Claude Bergeron, chief executive of Le Duff America, said Bruegger’s management team would continue to be led by chief executive Jim Greco.

“The addition of Bruegger’s to our North American operations combined with our other brands, La Madeleine, Brioche Dorée and Bridor, reinforces our position in the café–bakery segment and aligned with our multi brand strategy,” Bergeron said.

Greco called Groupe Le Duff “an ideal partner,” and said, the companies’ “combined expertise will help enhance Bruegger’s stable of brands and expand our concepts across North America through both company–owned and franchised bakery cafes.”

Bruegger’s was acquired by private–equity firm Sun Capital of Boca Raton, Fla., in 2003, at a time when the brand’s sales and profitability were flagging. M. Steven Liff, senior managing director of Sun Capital, said the chain at the time was overleveraged and battered by the low–carbohydrate craze that was sweeping the country.

In addition, Bruegger’s stores “were old and tired, and in need of renovation,” he said Friday. “The chain was trending downward when we acquired it.”

After Sun Capital bought Bruegger’s, Liff said, “We restructured the balance sheet, renovated virtually every store, re–engineered the menus, brought in a new coffee supplier, added drive thru and upgraded the management team,” which included the naming of Jim Greco to the post of chief executive.

Liff said he sees synergies between Groupe Le Duff and the Bruegger’s system.

“Groupe Le Duff has bakery–cafes in Europe and North America, and they want to expand in Canada with Timothy’s,” Liff said. “I think there will be good synergies with commissaries and product sharing. It’s a natural fit.”