BDT Capital Partners is the Chicago-based business that’s buying a majority stake in Whataburger. Beloved Whataburger fans are wondering who they are and if they should be concerned. Whataburger, meanwhile, has said that they are going to stay Texas-focused while expanding.
BDT Capital Partners is a Chicago-based merchant bank specializing in family and founder-led companies, Whataburger shared with Heavy.com (This story originally referred to BDT as an investment bank, but Whataburger’s PR team let us know that was not accurate.) They’re going to be the majority shareholder of Whataburger.
Tom Dobson, whose family has owned Whataburger for nearly 70 years, told the Austin American Statesman that the decision was exciting and bittersweet. But he says the partnership with BDT is going to be a good thing, not something to worry about.
Here’s everything you need to know about BDT.
1. BDT Capital Partners Advises & Invests in Family-Owned Companies & Preserves the Culture
BDT Capital Partners is known for advising and investing in family-owned companies, QSR reported.
Tiffany Hagge, who is managing director of BDT, said in a statement that BDT will keep Whataburger’s culture and family feel. “Whataburger is an iconic brand and extraordinary company with an important legacy of family ownership, loyal customers, valuable community involvement, dedicated and talented employees, and a highly experienced management team.”
Dobson told the Statesman: “They have a track record of success with businesses as special as ours that want to grow, while preserving culture and family history. They are trusted advisors and partners who have worked closely with other family businesses and they have a tremendous reputation for doing the right thing.”
But BDT does like to stay secretive, Business Insider reported in 2018. Byron Trott, founder and CEO, helped advise Keurig’s purchase of Dr Pepper Snapple Group. The firm manages more than $12 billion in assets, but stays under the radar and doesn’t even have a website. But it has more than 150 employees around the world.
2. BDT Capital Partners Has Majority Shares in Panera, Caribou, Krispy Kreme & More
Interestingly, BDT Capital Partners has majority shares in many food businesses that are very popular. WFAA shared that BDT has majority shares in Krispy Kreme, Panera, Einstein’s, and others. (Heavy originally listed Dunkin’ as one of those, which was listed in WFAA’s story, but Whataburger reached out and let us know that BDT is not invested in Dunkin’.)
BDT also has majority shares in competing coffee companies, like Peet’s Coffee & Tea, Caribou Coffee, and Sara Lee’s coffee.
The Chicago Tribune reported in 2017 that BDT also had shares in Intelligentsia, Lou Malnati’s pizza chain, and Athletico Physical Therapy.
BDT’s structure isn’t traditional, Fortune reported. Its employees work on all aspects of a business and serve both in advisory and investment roles. They’re skilled in investment, investment banking, and they’re “part psychologist in dealing with families and business owners,” Trott told Fortune.
In 2017, the Chicago Tribune reported that Trott was on a hiring spree after raising $10 billion from investors. William Bush is co-founder and vice-chairman, San Orr is COO, and Dan Jester, President, lives in Austin, Texas, according to the Chicago Tribune.
According to Crunchbase: “BDT Capital Partners, LLC is a private equity arm of BDT & Company, LLC, specializing in investments in family-owned and entrepreneurial businesses. It also co-invests. BDT Capital Partners, LLC was founded in 2009 and is based in Chicago, Illinois.”
3. Byron Trott Founded BDT Capital Partners & Was Once Called ‘The Billionaire’s Banker’ & the Rare Investment Banker ‘Who Puts Himself in His Clients’ Shoes’
Byron Trott founded BDT Capital Partners and is the CEO. He was vice chairman of investment banking at Goldman Sachs before that, WFFA reported. He was once Warren Buffett’s investment banker, Fortune shared.
According to Fortune, BDT reimagined the concept of the merchant bank and works exclusively with “billionaires with businesses.” Trott has been hugely successful at what he does. He grew up in Union, Missouri and his dad was a telephone-line repairman, Fortune shared. His dad was also a veteran who fought in the Battle of the Bulge. His mother ran a dress store.
Buffett said that Trott is the “rare investment banker that puts himself in his client’s shoes.” Trott is also involved in projects outside of BDT. The Trott House at the University of Chicago is named for Trott and his wife, Tina Trott. He founded the Metcalf Internship program at the university. He’s also involved with UNICEF.
4. Jim Stephen of Weber Praised BDT for Ensuring the Same Quality the Family Business Believed In
Fortune also said that BDT is known for winning “tales of affection” from its clients who love the work BDT does for their businesses. Jim Stephen’s dad invented the Weber grill and BDT got a controlling stake in the company in 2010. Stephen said BDT ensured his dad’s legacy stayed intact, including their reputation for building a quality product no matter what. He said BDT stayed true to that.
5. BDT Capital Partners Will Help Whataburger Expand
The reason for the sale is to help Whataburger get the capital it needs to expand into new and existing markets, Hagge added. Whataburger will remain headquartered in San Antonio.
Preston Atkinson, President and CEO of Whataburger, told QSR that this will open up opportunities for growth. “Whataburger has grown significantly over the years… And, in order to keep satisfying our customers, we’ve been exploring different options to expand the brand and introduce it to new audiences. We’ve gone through this process purposefully and diligently because we wanted to find a partner who honors our values, culture and 69-year legacy of family tradition.”
Atkinson will no longer be President, but will instead focus on the Dobson Family’s investment company, Las Aguilas.
BDT Capital Group’s history makes its purchase of Whataburger look hopeful. If they stick with Whataburger’s menu and culture, the expansion will only help and already successful and growing business.