Ivan Orkin Is ‘Gift of a Client’ for New Corlex Capital
World-renowned ramen chef Ivan Orkin, known for his Ivan Ramen brand, plans to develop and eventually franchise a new fast-casual restaurant with the help of Corlex Capital, a new private equity firm.
The first deal out of the gate for Corlex Capital is a whopper—the new private equity firm has signed Ivan Orkin, the celebrity chef known as the king of ramen, to develop and scale his new as-yet-unnamed concept, attract investors and ultimately franchise it, said Jeffrey Kolton.
Kolton is one of five partners in Corlex, who has spent the last six months winding down his franchise consulting firm, Franchise Market Ventures. He calls Orkin a good friend. “He’s such a creative guy but he’s also very business-focused. He’s a gift of a client,” Kolton said about Orkin and his brand known as Ivan Ramen.
“This is a guy I’ve known for years. I’ve respected him for years. We were friends in New York, and so I’ve been wanting to work with him for years, but I needed the platform,” he said, and he found it in Corlex Capital. Kolton is the founder of franchise research firm FRANdata, which he ultimately sold, then worked as an attorney before starting Franchise Market Ventures.
“For the last three years I’ve been helping clients raise money and I liked it. I like doing the deals. I realized pretty quickly proprietary deal flow was the name of the game,” he said, meaning deals between one client and one firm rather than deals that investment bankers send out to multiple potential buyers who then bid in an auction.
He describes the firm’s approach this way: “We do our due diligence before we put our own money in. It’s six months under the hood, and we know the good and the bad, so when we put money in we’ve already de-risked the investment.”
Corlex is raising money on a deal-by-deal basis for now, currently seeking capital to develop the initial prototypes of Orkin’s new concept. “We sent a deck out last week, we’re confident we’ll get the full raise,” he said, declining to reveal the amount they’re seeking nor details of the new brand. “Our initial investors have access to a lot more capital. What we’re contemplating now is whether to do a full fund or a pledge fund, and we’ll start that in 2019. We wanted to get the first couple of deals done” before going all-out for a capital raise.
The other partners are Jason Bedasse, Jake LaJoie, Dan Lonergan and Chad Magee. Lonergan was the partner at Roark Capital whose first deal was FastSigns, and Kolton has stayed in touch with him and others over the years.
“I’m not cherry-picking, but I’m able to work with people who I know. Not only are they great at what they do but they’re great people. The no-asshole rule is really important to us,” Kolton says with a laugh.
Said Orkin in a statement: “Partnering with Corlex Capital gave me immediate access to industry experts whose insights have been an invaluable resource. I look forward to partnering with the firm to share my love of ramen worldwide.”
Orkin and Kolton will serve on a panel about their plans to scale a fast-casual restaurant at the Restaurant Finance & Development Conference, presented by the Restaurant Finance Monitor, at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas, November 12-14.