Atalaya Capital Management, a private-equity fund, has acquired the franchise system of Bennigan's and Steak & Ale Restaurants out of a liquidation bankruptcy in Plano, Texas. The price: $1-million in cash plus the forgiveness of $12-million in secured debt, according to court records. Atalaya plans to revive Bennigan's, which still has 81 operating franchise stores, including one in Tampa, and keep Steak & Ale brand defunct, said Doug Benham, an Atlanta consultant helping oversee the venture for Atalaya. The plan is to reopen as franchised stores several of the 127 company-owned locations that closed unceremoniously on July 29. Leases for the closed stores, however, were not part of the deal and remain tied up in court. Longer term, the plan is to shrink the menu to the old favorites and simpler-to-make pub food. "We think Bennigan's is still a strong brand," Benham said. Meanwhile, Bennigan's former owner, billionaire John Kluge's Metromedia Steakhouse Group, which owns the Ponderosa and Bonanza steak house chains, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. There are five Ponderosa outlets in the Tampa Bay area.
Florida foreclosure rate second in U.S.
Florida had the nation's second-highest foreclosure rate in September, an ignominious record achieved by beating out depressed housing markets in California and Arizona, according to the firm RealtyTrac. Foreclosure filings last month afflicted 47,956 Florida properties, or one in every 178 households. Only Nevada, with one in 82 properties facing foreclosure, came off worse. Hillsborough County showed the biggest monthly increase in the Tampa Bay area, with 4,663 properties falling into foreclosure. Pinellas County had 1,813 foreclosure cases, while Pasco and Hernando counties had 1,175 and 374 cases, respectively. Not every foreclosure case recorded by RealtyTrac will result in a home's confiscation by a bank. In most cases, the filings are initial complaints filed in court when payments are a couple of months late.
Business trip costs may edge up in '09
Business trips will cost more in 2009, but the global economic slowdown will keep price increases modest, American Express predicted Wednesday in its annual business travel forecast. The price of the average domestic trip for North Americans will rise 1.2 percent to $1,002, the company said, and the average international trip will go up 3.5 percent to $3,452. Domestic air fares might even drop slightly in the coming year, said Herve Sedky, vice president of global advisory services for American Express Business Travel. But he warned the overall cost of a flight might be higher after counting new fees for services such as checked luggage and meals on board.