You may have forgotten that McDonald's even still owned Boston Market, which was previously known as Boston Chicken. No matter. Boston Chicken/Boston Market was an historically sad story (for Boston Market, anyway).
Back in 2000, McDonald's paid $173.5 million (including debt) for the chain, which had made a mess for itself by growing too fast (hardly an unheard-of situation in retail). As of June 30, Boston Market had $180 million in assets and $89.1 million in liabilities.
Remember when McDonald's was pressured by Pershing Capital's Bill Ackman to increase shareholder value? Well, McDonald's has managed to create value in the last several years, and, in the words of Frank Sinatra (or maybe Sid Vicious, depending on your generation), McDonald's might as well say, "I did it my way." (Maybe that's why Pershing Capital is also taking stakes in targets like Target
McDonald's has been buying back stock and paying meaty dividends. And it has focused on improving its namesake chains, and had a highly successful spinoff of its Chipotle Mexican Grill
McDonald's did not reveal the price that Sun Capital Partners is paying for Boston Market, but I'm sure shareholders are hoping it wheeled a good deal for the concept. In McDonald's Form 10-Q, the company said it does not expect to record a loss on the sale.
For my part, I have to wonder if the parallel tracks for both McDonald's and Wendy's -- buying then selling non-core chains -- might include a lesson. Acquisitions are certainly ways to drum up growth, but are they always worth it? Personally, I don't always like to see growth by acquisition, unless it makes major strategic sense. I'd rather see organic growth. And for a while there, McDonald's was looking pretty sad itself, but it was able to pull itself up by its bootstraps, revitalizing its core chain, which at the time probably looked somewhere near impossible. Back in 2003, it certainly was arguable that its ancillary chains could provide the growth the core Golden Arches could not -- back then it had Chipotle, Boston Market, Donato's, and the U.K.'s Pret a Manger, the last of which is the only one still in McDonald's portfolio.
McDonald's turnaround has been impressive, and some of the moves it has made during the last couple of years have resulted in streamlining its business, positioning it for growth, and solid returns for shareholders. Of course, McDonald's may be looking like less and less of a bargain, given the fact that it's trading at 29 times earnings. Still, that's cheaper than Burger King's
Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.