Judge OKs Hooters sale, but buyer unclear

A judge in Horry County, S.C. has approved the eventual sale of Hooters of America Inc., the Atlanta-based wings chain. Thursday's ruling is the latest twist in a multi-year legal tangle over the estate of the company's patriarch.

The buyer, sale price and sale date have not been determined or are not public record, said Melody Breeden, a Myrtle Beach, S.C. attorney who represents the widow of Robert H. Brooks, who built the chain into a multinational business.

Two firms, Chanticleer Investments and Wellspring Capital Management, are competing for control of Hooters. Wellspring is the former owner of Dave & Buster's, and the private equity group manages more than $2 billion in capital.

Chanticleer is trying to exercise a right in a previous loan agreement to block the sale of Hooters to Wellspring, according to the The Sun News in Myrtle Beach. If it succeeds, Chanticleer could buy the restaurant chain itself.

Earlier this year, the Horry Count Probate Court in Conway, S.C., set a deadline for Hooters to find a buyer to resolve the legal tussle over the Brooks estate. Hooters then collected bids.

In February, the company's CEO acknowledged in a letter to employees that banks and firms were exploring ways to "invest in and partner with" Hooters, which has estimated sales of roughly $1 billion annually.

Hooters of America operates and franchises more than 450 Hooters restaurants in 44 states and 29 foreign countries. The first Hooters opened in 1983 in Clearwater, Florida.

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