Bojangles’ moves one big step closer to having new owners

Bojangles’ is one step closer to having new owners.

In a meeting at the restaurant’s headquarters in Charlotte Thursday morning, Bojangles’ shareholders approved the sale of the company to two New York firms, Durational Capital Management LP and The Jordan Company, L.P.

About 33.4 million shares, or over 88 percent of outstanding shares entitled to vote, voted in favor of proposed deal, according to a statement from Bojangles’.

The sale, which was announced in November and is still subject to closing conditions, is expected to close in the first quarter of the year. After that, Bojangles’ stock will stop trading on the NASDAQ.

Also under terms of the merger agreement, Bojangles’ stockholders will receive $16.10 per share in cash upon completion of the deal.

The sale ushers in a new era for the chicken-and-biscuits chain, which opened its first location on West Boulevard in 1977. The new owners have said that Bojangles’ will continue do business as an independent, privately-held company based in Charlotte.

But the changing of hands raises questions about what Bojangles’ will look like in the future.

Questions remain, for instance, about employment at Bojangles’ corporate headquarters, changes to the menu and the opening and closing of restaurants.

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Representatives from Durational Capital Management and The Jordan Company could not be reached for comment.

The chain has encountered challenges in recent years that new ownership likely will try to address.

Opening stores too quickly, and opening in areas where the Bojangles’ name was unfamiliar, have hurt sales at the chain.

That was the case when the company went public in spring 2015, and leaders embarked on an ambitious plan to fill in Bojangles’ core markets in the Carolinas, then open stores in new markets, including in Mobile, Ala., north Florida and Washington, D.C.

In an earnings report last year, Bojangles’ said it closed 10 company-operated stores in four states in its adjacent markets, including Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia.

The company also dealt with expansion concerns in the 1980s. After expanding outside the Southeast at the time, Bojangles’ shrank to fewer than 200 restaurants. Now, the chain operates 759 restaurants, most of which are in the Southeast.

As another way to help improve its financial health, Bojangles’ last year got rid of four “very slow moving” menu items — jambalaya bowl, smoked sausage biscuit, barbecue pork sandwich and Cheddar Bo Biscuit — at company-operated restaurants.

As the retail and sports business reporter for the Observer, Katie Peralta covers everything from grocery-store competition in Charlotte to tax breaks for pro sports teams. She is a Chicago native and graduate of the University of Notre Dame.