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Asurion throws ‘rocket fuel’ on UBreakiFix growth


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UBreakiFix and its 30-something co-founder and CEO Justin Wetherill have a well-heeled corporate parent now that electronics insurance giant Asurion bought the 10-year-old electronics repair franchise with its 545-plus stores this fall.

Wetherill ticks off the assets for his franchise: “They’re a great supply chain operation,” he said, referring to Asurion, “They have much more marketing muscle,” which he expects to access in the months ahead.

“And then the capital,” of which Asurion has plenty to spare. He looks forward to “grow departments in anticipation of growth,” rather than function “on a cash basis” as before, meaning waiting for enough franchisees to sign on before adding executives at headquarters in Orlando. “We can get ahead of the ball rather than constantly playing catch-up.”

UBreakiFix is now a subsidiary of Nashville-based Asurion, with the franchise model, its headquarters in Orlando and Wetherill’s post as chief executive of the brand expected to remain intact, he said. One of the first uses of capital will be to add corporate stores, now numbering 12.

The brand’s largest franchisee has 35 stores, he said, and “rather than that operator getting to 50 before us,” he’d like to bulk up first. “I think it makes sense for us to make sure we’re in a position where we’ve walked in everybody’s shoes.”

Wetherill & Co. have been working with Asurion  for a while now—Asurion offers insurance to retailers of consumer electronics, and would funnel warranty repair business to UBreakifix stores.

“We got the opportunity to work with them for the last four years and got to know Asurion leadership. There were a lot of synergies” in the way the two brands did business, he believes. “We both have an incredible amount of passion for the customer experience.”

Asked if he’s feeling typical founder’s remorse, when an outsider buys the company started through sweat, blood and tears—in his case when he was 21 and dropped his phone but could find no one to fix it—he said no. “As the leader of this business, I think it’s my responsibility to put our brand in the best position to succeed long-term. It’s not necessarily about being my baby or being personal.”

He’s focused on one shiny object: “The big thing is throwing rocket fuel on what we’ve been doing. Last year we opened 122 stores. We hope to open a lot more than that this year with the access to the resources and the capital of Asurion.”

Chicken Salad Chick CEO hopes for ‘business as usual,’ plus more M&A

  • Scott Deviney, CEO of Chicken Salad Chick, told Franchise Times his new majority investor, Brentwood Associates, wants him to stay the course, adding about 50 restaurants each year in concentric circles. Meanwhile, Sun Holdings adds its first fast-casual brand, McAlister’s Deli, to its 1,000-restaurant empire, plus other recent M&A moves.
  • Papa John’s USA sold 24 locations in the South Florida area to existing franchisee Ricky Warman. Unbridled Capital acted as the refranchising agent for Papa John’s in its third market, the other two being Macon, Georgia, and Minneapolis.
  • Self Esteem Brands, parent company of Anytime Fitness, acquired The Bar Method, a fitness concept that offers low-impact, isometric exercises performed on a padded floor. Jay DeCoons, CEO of The Bar Method since 2015, will remain with the company, serving as brand president. Self Esteem’s CEO Chuck Runyon credited the backing by private equity firm Roark Capital for enabling the acquisition, its second this year.
  • Brentwood Associates, a consumer-focused private equity firm, acquired a majority interest in Chicken Salad Chick from Eagle Merchant Partners. Chicken Salad Chick has 137 locations throughout 16 states predominantly in the Southeast. Chicken Salad Chick CEO Scott Deviney said he expects “business as usual, luckily” at the restaurant chain.
  • Zak Family Foods sold 25 KFC, Taco Bell and co-branded restaurants in Iowa, Illinois and Nebraska to FMI Dollar Bell Inc., a related entity to Canadian-based Yum franchisee FMI Group. Unbridled Capital provided sell-side advisory to Zak Family Foods, which Jason Zakaras called “an emotional decision to sell.”
  • Quaker Hospitality Holdings acquired 18 Penn Station East Coast Subs restaurants in Ohio from the franchisor. Partners Andrew Brennan, Lachlan McLean and Keith Gavin now own 14 Penn Station restaurants in the Dayton area and four in the Cincinnati suburbs.
  • The founder of Sun Holdings, Guillermo Perales, bought into the McAlister’s Deli system with the purchase of 51 locations in four states, plus an agreement to develop another 47 locations. Sun Holdings, which recently opened its 1,000th restaurant, also operates Krispy Kreme, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, Golden Corral as well as Burger King and Arby’s among others. Sellers were a handful of franchisee groups plus corporate. The purchase marks Sun’s first brand in the fast-casual space.
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The latest news, opinions and commentary on what's happening in the franchise arena that could affect your business.

Tom KaiserTom Kaiser is senior editor of Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3209, or send story ideas to tkaiser@franchisetimes.com.
 
Beth EwenBeth Ewen is senior editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3212, or send story ideas to bewen@franchisetimes.com.
 
Nicholas UptonNicholas Upton is restaurants editor at Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3226, or send story ideas to nupton@franchisetimes.com.
 
Laura MichaelsLaura Michaels is editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3210, or send story ideas to lmichaels@franchisetimes.com.
 
Mary Jo LarsonMary Jo Larson is the publisher of Franchise Times Magazine and the Restaurant Finance Monitor.  You can find her on Twitter at
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