Thursday, April 19, 2018
Business

Investment firm buys Ker's WingHouse

NFL player-turned-restaurant chieftain Crawford Ker is selling his Largo-based sports-themed restaurant chain Ker's WingHouse to investors who have aggressive expansion plans on the menu.

Third Lake Capital, an investment vehicle created a year ago by the family of Ashley Furniture founder Ron Wanek, is buying all 24 stores in the chain, Third Lake CEO Ken Jones confirmed Thursday.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

However, Jones indicated one estimated sales price cited in the media was inaccurate. He declined to elaborate.

Ker will remain on board as CEO.

An all-American offensive lineman at the University of Florida, Ker played for the Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos in the NFL.

After leaving the NFL, in 1994 he bought a Largo restaurant called Knockers, a knockoff of Hooters, the popular nationwide restaurant chain that started in Clearwater. Like Hooters, Knockers was known for its chicken wings and busty waitresses in shiny nylon shorts.

Ker's WingHouse stuck with the theme, with its website saying its "main attraction … is our version of 'The Girl Next Door,' the World Famous WingHouse Girls."

Third Lake isn't planning any changes.

"The food, the menu, the decor, the brand, the management is all staying in place," said Jones, who may be best known as CEO of the host committee that organized the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa. "Crawford has build a very strong brand over the last 20 years. He's done a fantastic job. … We'll be good stewards of the brand."

Beyond imminent plans to open a 25th Ker's WingHouse location, Third Lake intends to invest millions in opening an unspecified number of stores throughout Florida and then expanding outside the state.

"Within the next one to five years, our goal is to have a significant expansion within the state of Florida," Jones said.

Third Lake, which Jones described as a "buy-and-hold" operation, often doesn't disclose its investments. Although it has other investments in the hospitality industry, this marks its first acquisition of a restaurant chain, he said.

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