Burger King to go public -- again

The King wants his crown back: Fast-food chain Burger King  is continuing its reinvention by planning to go public – again.

Within the next three months, the hamburger giant said it will re-list its shares on the New York Stock Exchange. The last time Burger King traded publicly was from 2006 to 2010, when investment firm 3G Capital took it over for a whopping $3.3 billion and turned it private.

In a bit of a convoluted deal, 3G said late Tuesday that it is selling a 29% stake in the Miami-based restaurant to London-based acquisition company Justice Holdings.

The $1.4-billion deal will cause Justice’s shares to switch from the London Stock Exchange to New York, where Justice will emerge as Burger King Worldwide Inc. 3G will remain the combined company’s largest shareholder, with a 71% stake.

“Burger King stood out as a unique global player in the expanding international quick-service restaurant industry with a strong heritage and an aggressive transformation underway in its North America business unit,” said Justice co-founder Nicolas Berggruen in a statement.

Billionaire William A. Ackman, who runs hedge fund Pershing Square Capital Management, is also a Justice co-founder.

"2011 was a pivotal year for the Burger King brand,” said Chief Executive Bernardo Hees in a statement.

No kidding. This week, the company revealed its largest menu shake-up ever, with McDonald’s-esque garden salads, snack wraps, real fruit smoothies and frappés. Burger King also signed as spokespeople a selection of Tinseltown’s biggest names, including David Beckham, Jay Leno, Salma Hayek and Steven Tyler.

The company is rolling out a remodeling effort through its more than 12,500 stores around the world. Earlier this year, the chain kicked out its king mascot for a broader marketing strategy.

Even Hees is relatively new – the onetime Latin American railroad executive was brought on board as Burger King’s boss in 2010.

But the company continues to get burned, losing its second-place spot in the U.S. burger wars to Wendy’s earlier this month and watching a steady exodus of customers to fast-casual competitors such as Five Guys. For the fiscal year ended Dec. 31, revenue dipped 3% to $2.3 billion from $2.4 billion.

Here’s hoping its public reemergence helps matters. As part of the deal with Justice, two new members will join Burger King’s board: Alan Parker, one of Justice’s independent directors and a former restaurant and hotel executive, and Martin Franklin, executive chairman of consumer products company Jarden.

Both Justice and 3G’s boards approved the agreement, which is not subject to shareholder approval but does need to pass muster with antitrust authorities and the Securities and Exchange Commission.


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