Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Former Panther's private-equity firm announces key hires at Wild Wing Cafe

Wild Wing Cafe, the restaurant chain acquired by former Carolina Panther Muhsin Muhammad's private-equity firm this year, has tapped two industry veterans for key roles.

Charlotte-based Axum Capital Partners announced Bill Prather, former chief executive of Hardee's and executive vice president and head of worldwide operations for Burger King, will become Wild Wing's new CEO. David Leonardo, a former Wendy's, Arby's and Burger King executive who has also worked in investment banking for JPMorgan Chase & Co., will join the company as chief development officer.

"Our ability to quickly add a strong and experienced CEO such as Bill, who has a national view of the restaurant business, to the Wild Wing team reflects Axum's vision for creating value within our portfolio companies and effectively executing our firm's investment strategy," said Muhammad, who played pro football for 14 seasons before jumping into private equity.

Mount Pleasant, S.C.-based Wild Wing, which generated $100 million in sales last year, operates 11 company-owned and 22 franchised restaurants in seven states. Axum acquired a controlling stake in the company in January, the firm's first deal.

Axum, which targets lower middle-market businesses in the food and beverage and educational services sectors, is evaluating other deals, its partners have said. The firm's target fund size is $100 million to $150 million, with about five to seven companies in its portfolio.