CenterOak bests 97 others to buy Wetzel’s Pretzels
A Wetzel’s Preztels storefront, where CenterOak Partners bought a majority stake, besting 97 others.
“Wetzel’s is a great business for private equity investors because it has everything they look for,” declares Bill Phelps, who as co-founder and CEO of Wetzel’s Pretzels could be considered biased. “It has high cash flow. It has good growth. It has a solid, experienced management team in place.” CenterOak Partners, a Dallas-based private equity firm, apparently agrees because it bought a majority stake in Wetzel’s, bringing to a close Levine Leichtman Capital Partners’ ownership of the brand, a position Levine held since 2007. Phelps said 98 different companies were interested in Wetzel’s, including private equity firms, family offices and strategic buyers. He expects mostly the status quo now that ownership has changed. “It’s more of the same in a good way. I’m still the CEO of the company,” he says. “I always find with investors, they tend to make you better. They tend to see things differently, and they tend to add value in growth ideas and management ideas. So we’re very excited about it.” Phelps said he and Rick Wetzel started the company 22 years ago, making pretzels in their kitchens. Now at 310 units, Phelps remains enthused. “I love the business. It’s a blast,” he says.