Mrs. Fields Famous Brands is looking forward to a much sweeter and profitable future.
The Salt Lake City-based company, made famous by cookie entrepreneur Debbie Fields, said it has successfully completed a refinancing of its operations and is headed into 2012 with the additional capital it needs to grow and expand its business in the years ahead.
"This refinancing represents an important first step toward the future for our Mrs. Fields and TCBY [frozen yogurt] brands," said Tim Casey, the company's president and chief executive. "And we are now in the position to grow our consumer and franchise bases both domestically and internationally."
The refinancing was completed last week. It saw The Carlyle Group and Z Capital Partners, which combined held the majority of the treat vendor's $65 million in senior secured notes, swap that debt for controlling interest in Mrs. Fields.
"We have tremendous financial partners in Z Capital and The Carlyle Group," Casey said, explaining that those two private investment companies remain committed to the future financial success of Mrs. Fields and its brands.
Mrs. Fields, which emerged from a bankruptcy three years ago, franchises more than 950 stores under its brand and the TCBY frozen-yogurt banner. Last year the company generated more than $60 million in revenue.
Along with controlling interest in Mrs. Fields, the two new owners also have gained a big presence on the company's board of directors, Casey said. "Both companies will bring a rich level of experience to the board and can offer insight and brand guidance that can only help our long-term growth."
Among its many holdings, Carlyle, for example, has an interest in Dunkin' Brands, which is the franchisor of the Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin Robbins stores. And Z Capital counts among its holdings interest in the Real Mex Restaurants chain and New World Pasta, which markets such brands as American Beauty, Ronzoni and Creamette.
"We continue to believe in the growth potential of the company [Mrs. Fields] and two of America's most recognizable food-related brands," Carlyle Managing Director Michael Stewart said in a statement announcing the successful refinancing of the company, which at one time was based in Park City.
Casey said the company will place a big emphasis in the years ahead on developing new products that will keep both brands relevant to consumers and "always on the front end" in the industry.
Earlier this year, Mrs. Fields and TCBY announced one the industry's biggest franchise deals, a 200-store TCBY agreement in Texas. And Casey said Mrs. Fields also is working on an international "multi-territory franchise agreement" that it hopes to be able to announce in the months ahead.
The Utah company was founded when Debbie Fields opened her first cookie store in Palo Alto, Calif., in 1977 and began franchising in 1990. Although she no long holds an interest in Mrs. Fields Famous Brands, Casey said the relationship between the company and its founder remains cordial.