Whataburger sells majority interest in chain to Chicago company, plans expansion

Whatabignews for one of Texas’ biggest family-owned burger chains.

As of Friday, BDT Capital Partners acquired a majority interest in Whataburger.

BDT is a Chicago-based merchant bank investment company specializing in family companies like Whataburger. The Chicago company also holds majority shares among such companies as Peet’s Coffee & Tea, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Dunkin’ and Einstein Bros. Bagels.

Whataburger headquarters will remain in San Antonio, and be led by a team of Whataburger executives.

“Whataburger has grown significantly over the years. And in order to keep satisfying our customers, we’ve been exploring different options to expand and introduce it to new audiences,” said Whataburger President/CEO Preston Atkinson in a statement released Friday by Whataburger. “We’ve gone through this process purposefully and diligently because we wanted to find a partner who honors our values, culture and 69-year legacy of family tradition.”

Whataburger has about 43,000 employees. Harmon Dobson opened the first Whataburger at a small roadside burger stand in Corpus Christi in 1950.

As of Friday, the fast-food company has 828 locations in 10 states.

“This is both exciting and bittersweet for the Dobson family,” said Whataburger Board Chairman Tom Dobson. “Whataburger has been the heart and soul of our family for nearly 70 years, but we feel really good about the partnership with BDT.”

The Dobson family will hold a minority ownership in the company.