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Pizza chain Lou Malnati’s brings on new investor, replacing BDT Capital – Chicago Tribune

By Kim Quillen

Chicago Tribune

Oct 01, 2021 10:23 AM

Thank you for supporting our journalism. This article is available exclusively for our subscribers, who help fund our work at the Chicago Tribune.

Deep-dish pizza chain Lou Malnati’s has a new investor.

BDT Capital Partners, the Chicago investment firm that acquired a stake in the iconic pizza chain five years ago as it was beginning to expand out of state, sold its shares to Meritage Group for an undisclosed sum.

Deep dish pizza at Lou Malnati's pizzeria in Chicago.

Deep dish pizza at Lou Malnati’s pizzeria in Chicago. (Anthony Souffle / Chicago Tribune)

Marc Malnati, who remains active in the pizza chain his father started 50 years ago, said he and his brother, Rick, remain the two largest individual shareholders. He wouldn’t disclose the size of the stake that BDT held and that Meritage now controls, and said the shift in investors won’t result in much change.

“The pizza’s still going to taste exceptionally well,” Malnati said, and the chain intends to continue expanding.

Malnati said BDT, which is headed by former Goldman Sachs investment banker Byron Trott, bought the restaurant chain when BDT’s investment funds were in the early stages. “They’re doing billion-dollar deals all across the world,” he said. “We’re a small family business.”

BDT and Meritage, an investment group that manages more than $11 billion with offices in San Francisco, Greenwich, Connecticut, and New York City, did not respond to requests for comment.

Meritage, according to Malnati, “tends to stay involved, invested in companies for the long-term.”

“We want deliberate growth coming out of COVID, and we want to give ourselves an opportunity to introduce the product in other cities in the Midwest where there is big demand,” Malnati said. “We’re going to continue our expansion.”

Malnati also said that the chain’s Taste of Chicago business, which ships frozen pizzas to customers around the country, tripled during the pandemic.

“During COVID when people were relocating around the country, and people weren’t able to get to Chicago to get their fix, that business has grown tremendously,” he said.

Lou Malnati and his wife, Jean, opened their first restaurant in 1971 in Lincolnwood.

The chain has more than 70 locations, including sites in Illinois, Arizona, Indiana and Wisconsin.

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