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Sunday, Oct 1, 2023

Ares Management Invests in Wine Club and Restaurant Group Cooper’s Hawk

Century City-based private equity firm Ares Management Corp. has invested more than $700 million in Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants, an eatery and wine club chain with major expansion plans.

Ares will take over equity positions in the company that were held by friends and family of the restaurant group’s ownership as well as a minority stake held by Connecticut investment firm KarpReilly, according to a person close to the deal. That person confirmed earlier reports that Ares’ total stake amount to more than $700 million.

The 14-year-old Cooper’s Hawk is a chain of upscale casual restaurants primarily located in suburban locations in Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Wisconsin and Virginia.

The eateries, which average 11,000 square feet in size, serve steak, seafood, salads, sandwiches and appetizers, and offer customers the opportunity to join the company’s wine club for $19.99 a month.

Cooper’s Hawk runs a 125,000-square-foot winery in Woodridge, Ill., with a production capacity of nearly 700,000 cases annually. Cooper’s Hawk boasts 400,000 wine club members.

With the new infusion of funding, the restaurant group plans to double in size to about 80 eateries by 2024 with a target of $750 million in annual revenue. Restaurant management consulting firm Technomic Inc. estimates the Downers Grove, Ill.-based chain generated $282 million in sales in 2018, up nearly 17% from the previous year.

The company also plans to expand in the next few years to several markets in the West, including Los Angeles.

David Kaplan, co-founder of Ares Management, said his firm’s investment in Cooper’s Hawk will help fund the chain’s “next phase of growth.”

Other consumer brand investments by Ares, which has $137 billion of assets under management, include Garden Fresh Restaurant Group, a former San Diego-based restaurant chain that runs Souplantation; Cozzini Bros Inc., a provider of commercial knife sharpening and cutlery services in the restaurant industry; and Mira Loma-based Edward Don & Co., a distributor of foodservice equipment and supplies.

Finance reporter Pat Maio can be reached at pmaio@labusinessjournal.com or (323) 556-8329. Follow him on Twitter @patmaio.

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