HomeBussinessChopped salad chain bought by private equity firm KnightBridge

Chopped salad chain bought by private equity firm KnightBridge

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Chopped, which was founded in 2012, has about 60 outlets in Ireland, the Netherlands, Cyprus and the UK.

In a statement, KnightBridge confirmed that the day-to-day operations of the company, as well as its existing franchisees, will not be affected by the acquisition.

Under the terms of the deal, the newly launched hospitality division of KnightBridge will retain the existing senior management and head-office teams.

Co-founder Brian Lee is set to step down from his role as chief executive and will move into an adviser and brand ambassador position.

He will hold a minority shareholding in the new structure.

“Since we set up the company in 2012, I’ve been at the coalface, driving its growth from an idea at the back of my mind to one of Ireland’s biggest brands and Ireland’s first, and now leading, healthy fast-food chain,” Mr Lee said.

“Today is a significant milestone for Freshly Chopped and, on a personal level, it’s the beginning of a new chapter that allows me the opportunity to explore new entrepreneurial avenues and passions.”

Kent Lim, a founding partner of the KnightBridge group who previously worked with Chopped, has been appointed as CEO of the business.

“By leveraging our international network and our expertise in investment and franchising, we see a very bright future for Freshly Chopped,” he said.

KnightBridge is planning a “significant investment” in the health-food chain and will work with a number of hospitality experts to update its branding and menus. It also plans to hold a “townhall” meeting with all franchisees to present its strategic plan.

“The hospitality division of KnightBridge has ambitious plans and is in active acquisition mode, with a particular interest in indigenous food brands in their early days who are looking to scale and expand,” KnightBridge chairman and co-founder Bock Liang said.

The first Chopped store opened in Baggot Street, Dublin in May 2012.

Mr Lee, a mixed-martial arts devotee, committed €100,000 of his own money to the business.

In December 2021, Chopped signed a master franchise agreement with Dutch company FFF International Holding which planned to open 120 outlets in the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany, Denmark and Sweden over a five-year period.

Earlier this year, Chopped appointed an interim examiner after entering the small company administrative rescue process (Scarp) some weeks before.

Last year, Mairead Latimer, a former financial controller at the business, received a suspended sentence after stealing €82,000 from Chopped.

Ms Latimer received a sentence of two years and six months which was suspended on condition that she repay the entire amount that she took from the business between December 2016 and July 2018.

She made a number of payments to “ghost” employees, with more than €43,000 sent to her father’s account.

She also made higher wage payments to her own account which had not been approved by the company’s directors.

Mr Lee expressed unhappiness with the outcome, saying that the decision not to jail the former CFO would serve as an “advertisement” to others that they could do the same thing and walk away.

He said that the crime had put many jobs in the company in jeopardy.

Ms Latimer’s trial last July was told that she had paid back more than 90pc of the money to Chopped.

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