After sorrow, Wenesco rebuilds via merger with Triwen Group

The newest Wendy’s  store is a doozy for  Kevin Woodside of  Wenesco Restaurants  and his new business  partner, Phillip Anastos of Triwen,  set to open in the massive American  Dream commercial project built  right outside of Manhattan.

“It literally has an indoor  ski jump,” not to mention a  rollercoaster, said Chris Kelleher  of Auspex Capital, who engineered  the merger.

The Auspex team faced a  challenging situation, advising  Wenesco, a New Jersey-based  Wendy’s franchisee, after the death  of its 80 percent owner.

“The fact that they were trying  to do so much at the same time:  buying out the widow and merging  with the other entity, that was  a big challenge,” Kelleher said.  “Obviously there’s a whole other  set of lawyers, and obviously their  interests were in protecting the  widow,” who did not want to carry  a loan to fund the majority stake  but rather “wanted to move on  with her life.”

The other problem, said Kelleher:  “The capital stack, the debt and the  equity that we refer to, there was a  shortfall,” he said. “The problem  was, it wasn’t big enough to garner  attention from major institutional  mezzanine or sub-debt players.

They usually want $10 million but  we only had $2 million” to cover.  Woodside was the linchpin  in the deal. “When I sat down  with Kevin it was very apparent  very quickly that this was a great  operator. That was the important  thing,” Kelleher said. “There was  the loss of the face of the firm, but  the guts of the firm were still there.  He would sit with the bankers and  knew every detail of every store,”  which convinced the incumbent  lender to stay on.

Woodside said the new  partnership is going “very, very  well. Phillip and I had known  each other for a good seven years  or so when he came into our  Wendy’s system. It’s a little bit of  a mentorship. After my partner of  20 years had passed, and looking  at options on how to regroup the  company—I didn’t want to sit on  it, but grow it.”

The company has 18 operating  Wendy’s restaurants, with number  19, the Wendy’s in the American  Dream project, set to open in  March. If it happens as planned, it  will be a long-time coming.

“We’ve had that lease for the  American Dream, back when it  was called Xanadu, since I think  2005, the original version of that.  That’s a project that had multiple  developers fail and go under, it  collapsed under its own weight.

Triple Five came along and said we  know how to fix it. Let’s make it  bigger.

“We’re built to grow, and the  way we see it is, we owe every  high performer a career, not just  a paycheck,” Woodside said.  “Business has been very good to me  and others like me, and as much  as my mentors have helped me out,  we want to continue the trend.  We’re all about growing the future  leaders.”