Toronto investment firm Fairfax buys Prime Restaurants


Dec 29, 2011

Better known in the insurance and reinsurance sectors, a Toronto investment firm that controls a major livestock feed maker has been cleared to diversify into feeding people also.

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice on Thursday granted approval for the friendly takeover of Mississauga-based Prime Restaurants by Fairfax Financial Holdings, the majority owners of Winnipeg feed maker Ridley Inc. since 2008.

The majority of shareholders in Prime, including a "majority of the minority," also voted approval at a special meeting of shareholders that morning.

The cash deal, worth $7.50 per share of Prime plus a "special dividend" of eight cents a share at a later date, is expected to close Jan. 10.

The sale gives Fairfax control of Prime's restaurant chains, East Side Mario's and Casey's; the Prime Pubs chain, which includes the Fionn MacCool's and D'Arcy McGee's chains and other Irish-style pubs; and the Bier Markt pub chain.

The deal also puts an end to a bid from another major restaurant chain developer, Ontario-based Cara Operations, which runs the Swiss Chalet, Harvey's, Montana's Cookhouse, Milestones and Kelsey's chains in Canada.

Cara in October had announced a friendly bid of $7 per share for Prime, but Prime walked away from the deal in November in favour of what Prime described as Fairfax's "superior proposal."

Casey's has 26 restaurants in Ontario and Quebec, while East Side Mario's has over 90 sites in nine provinces except Manitoba. The Fionn MacCool's pub chain has 11 sites in Ontario and one in Calgary, while D'Arcy McGee's has five in Ontario and one in Tempe, Ariz.