ARCP to Grab Red Lobster RE in $1.5B Sale-Leaseback

As part of Golden Gate Capital’s acquisition of the Red Lobster chain from Darden Restaurants, American Realty Capital Properties will buy more than 500 Red Lobster restaurant properties and lease them back to GGC.
Nicholas Schorsch, ARCP's chairman & CEO

Nicholas Schorsch, ARCP’

As part of Golden Gate Capital’s acquisition of the Red Lobster chain from Darden Restaurants Inc., American Realty Capital Properties Inc. will buy more than 500 Red Lobster restaurant properties and lease them back to GGC, ARCP announced Friday. The deal is valued at about $1.5 billion.

The purchase price reportedly represents a GAAP cap rate of 9.9 percent and a cash cap rate of 7.9 percent. About 93.5 percent of the portfolio’s leases will be structured with a 25-year initial term and the remainder (constituting leasehold assets) will have a weighted average 18.7-year initial term. The portfolio master leases will also include 2 percent annual contractual rent escalations.

ARCP’s announcement characterized the Red Lobster properties as “high-quality real estate located at main intersections in strong markets.”

It also noted that once this transaction closes, ARCP will have achieved its $3 billion 2014 acquisition target well ahead of schedule.

“As corporate America continues to sell its owned real estate, our team has shown its strength in seizing these opportunities, evidenced by this deal, and due largely to our inherent advantage as the largest net lease REIT,” Nicholas Schorsch, CEO & executive chairman of ARCP, said in a release.

(Since 2011, retail sale-leaseback activity has been generally on the upswing, according to figures from Real Capital Analytics. Deals of $2.5 million and up totaled about $1.4 billion in 2011, $1.8 billion in 2012 and $1.3 billion in 2013, with about $649 million in retail sale-leasebacks through May 1 of this year.)

The deal gives ARCP “long-term flexibility through an acquisition structure highlighted by multiple homogenous lease pools, supported by the protection of master leases,” Lisa Beeson, COO of ARCP, said in the release.

She added that GGC, a San Francisco-based private investment firm, has $12 billion of AUM and is “one of the most active investors in multi-unit consumer companies and casual dining restaurants, having acquired leading brands such as California Pizza Kitchen, Payless ShoeSource and Eddie Bauer.”

Acknowledging the widespread view that casual dining is in trouble, Garrick Brown, director of research for Cassidy Turley, told Commercial Property Executive that the deal nonetheless has a good shot at being a win for all three parties and called it a “genius move” for GGC. “I think their play is that they’re going to focus on this one brand.”

Brown believes there’s much less risk in the deal than the 7.9 percent cap suggests, because Red Lobster is in better shape than many other casual chains, such as T.G.I. Friday’s. Red Lobster’s traffic numbers are “rock solid,” he said, and the average check is much higher than at Darden’s cash cow, Olive Garden.

He also suggests that although Darden treats both Olive Garden and Red Lobster as casual-dining chains, it might make sense to see the latter as not the high-end of the casual-dining spectrum, but as the lowest-end upscale dining chain, with the potential to raise its prices a bit.