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Prem Watsa on Prime Restaurants, CARA Restaurants, and Keg Restaurants

March 09, 2014 | About:

Last year, I mentioned to you that we got into the restaurant business through the purchase of an 82% interest in Prime Restaurants. Since that time, under Paul Rivett’s leadership, we have merged Prime Restaurants into CARA Restaurants (their nine restaurant groups will continue to be managed by distinct teams focused on individual brands and customers) and invested Cdn$100 million in CARA, giving us a fully diluted 49% interest. Bill Gregson and Ken Grondin, of Brick fame, will run the combined operations with the assistance of John Rothschild and Grant Cobb, the leaders at Prime. Nick Perpick, one of the founders of Prime, has retired after more than 30 years in the restaurant business, but Nick will remain a CARA shareholder and he will consult for Fairfax. Additionally, we have recently acquired a 51% interest in Keg Restaurants, perhaps the premier restaurant brand in Canada, for Cdn$85 million. Keg is run by a veteran team led by David Aisenstat.

CARA owns some of the best loved restaurant brands in Canada with nearly 700 restaurants including Swiss Chalet (begun in 1954), Harvey’s (begun in 1959), Kelsey’s (begun in 1978), Milestone’s (begun in 1989) and Montana’s (begun in 1995). The combined CARA and Prime will have over 800 restaurants and 35,000 employees across Canada, with over Cdn$1.6 billion in system sales. As they are predominantly franchised, their revenues are expected to be approximately Cdn$270 million and free cash flow is expected to be over Cdn$50 million.

Keg Restaurants was begun in Canada in 1971 by George Tidball (I met George long ago on an early Keg financing). David Aisenstat has done an outstanding job building the Keg brand in the past 15 years. David and his long serving management team (including three key executives – Neil Maclean, Jamie Henderson and Doug Smith – who have over 100 years of combined service exclusively at the Keg!) run over 100 Keg restaurants, primarily in Canada, with sales of about Cdn$500 million. Together, Prime, CARA and Keg have over 900 restaurants and employ over 44,000 people across Canada. They serve 318,000 Canadians daily (on average that works out to feeding every Canadian more than twice a year!) across their many brands. Fairfax is very much in the restaurant business in Canada!

From Fairfax Financial 2013 Chairman’s Letters to Shareholders

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