Dave & Buster’s announced Wednesday that it’s spending $835 million to acquire fellow eatertainment chain Main Event from Ardent Leisure Group Limited and RedBird Capital Partners.
When the transaction closes later this year, Main Event CEO Chris Morris will lead the combined company. Dave & Buster’s has been searching for a new CEO since Brian Jenkins retired at the end of September. In the meantime, board chair Kevin Sheehan has served as interim CEO.
As CEO, Morris will receive an annualized base salary of $750,000, effective as of the closing of the deal, according to filings. He will be eligible to receive an annual target bonus equal to 100 percent of his base salary and is expected to be eligible for annual grants of long-term incentive awards with a target grant date value of 200 percent of his base salary.
Morris has held the president and CEO role at Main Event since March 2018. Before, he served as president of California Pizza Kitchen from September 2013 to March 2018, with previous stops as CFO at On The Border and CEC Entertainment.
Sheehan will leave his position following the acquisition, but continue as chairman of the board.
Main Event, which offers bowling, laser tag, arcade games, and virtual reality, operates 50 locations in 17 states, including The Summit, a three-unit eatertainment chain based in Colorado. Both Main Event and Dave & Buster’s headquarters are based in Texas.
Sheehan described the transaction as a “transformational combination,” noting that Main Event’s model, footprint, and asset quality align well with Dave & Buster’s. The two concepts don’t cannibalize each other either; while Main Event targets families and children, Dave & Buster’s goes after young adults.
“While each brand will continue to operate independently, ownership of both brands enables us to expand the breadth of customers we serve together, while also enabling each brand to better differentiate its offering to its core consumer,” Sheehan said in a statement. “Main Event’s existing footprint works well with Dave & Buster’s current geographies and each brand has significant growth opportunities. We expect the acquisition to be accretive to growth and earnings.”
The $835 million price tag represents a 9x multiple of Main Event’s 12-month adjusted EBITDA. Dave & Buster’s will use cash on hand and committed bank financing to fund the acquisition. When the purchase finalizes, the two sides expect roughly $20 million of synergies to be achieved within two years from store support center consolidation and supply chain efficiencies.
The all-cash transaction was unanimously approved by both boards of directors. Specific timing of closure is subject to certain conditions, including approval by Ardent Leisure stockholders and regulatory review.
“On behalf of the entire team at Main Event, we are excited to join the Dave & Buster’s family,” Morris said in a statement. “Together, we will be well positioned to leverage our collective experience and provide our consumers with a category defining entertainment experience.”
In late March, Sheehan told analysts that Dave & Buster’s business is “on fire.” With COVID decreasing in February and March, same-store sales increased 5.4 percent in the first eight weeks of the first quarter. Walk-in business is up 9.1 percent quarter-to-date versus pre-pandemic times and special events business is down 42 percent, but that’s a huge turnaround from the 58 percent drop in Q4. The eatertainment chain ended fiscal 2021 with 144 locations, and believes it has enough room for 230 throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Deutsche Bank is serving as financial advisor and Kirkland & Ellis LLP is serving as legal advisor to Dave & Buster’s. Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan are serving as financial advisors to Main Event. Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP is serving as legal advisor to Main Event, and Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP is serving as legal advisor to RedBird. Gilbert + Tobin is serving as legal advisor to Ardent Leisure.