Iconic Texas fast food hamburger chain Whataburger has been sold to BDT Capital Partners, a Chicago-based merchant bank, the company confirms Friday.
The San Antonio-based company said by selling the majority interest in the business they were positioning the chain for future growth -- i.e. expansion.
Whataburger described their new parent as a bank, "that advises and invests in family and founder-led companies."
The burger chain was started in Corpus Christi in the 1950s by Harmon Dobson. After he died in a plane crash in 1967, his wife Grace ran the business until she handed the torch to her son Tom in the 1990s. The chain has since grown to include more than 800 restaurants and 43,000 employees.
"Whataburger has grown significantly over the years. And, in order to keep satisfying our customers, we've been exploring different options to expand the brand and introduce it to new audiences," said Whataburger President/CEO Preston Atkinson. "We're excited about the partnership with BDT because they respect and admire the brand we've built. They want to preserve it while they help us continue growing a sustainable, competitive business over a long period of time. They don't plan to change our recipe for success."
What is changing, however, is leadership at the top. Atkinson and Board Chair Tom Dobson, the founder's son, will step aside and focus on operating Las Aguilas, a diversified investment company established by the Dobson family in 2011 that focuses on real estate and philanthropy.
Atkinson and Dobson will still hold seats on the Whataburger board of directors to provide ongoing guidance and ensure a smooth transition.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The Dobson family will retain the minority interest in the chain and the company's headquarters will remain in San Antonio.