Riverside makes juicy Australian debut

A month after opening an Australian office, US-headquartered firm The Riverside Company has acquired a controlling stake in juice bar chain Boost Juice Bars.

The Riverside Company has made its first deal on Australian turf, taking a majority stake in The Boost Investment Group, owners of Boost Juice Bars and Salsa’s Fresh Mex Grill.

Although no financial details of the transaction have been disclosed, Simon Feiglin, Riverside partner and head of the firm’s Australian business, said the investment had gained the firm “a better than 2/3 interest” in the company. He also said the transaction size fell in the firm’s sweet spot of deals in the $25 million to $100 million range. Several media reports have stated that a 70 percent stake in the company was acquired for between $65 million and $70 million.

Debt financing for the transaction was provided by Commonwealth Bank of Australia, with legal advice provided by Jones Day, according to Riverside statement. KPMG and Wingate Group also advised on the deal.

The Boost chain of juice bars was founded in 2000 by husband and wife team, Janine and Jeff Allis. The duo, along with other key shareholders, will retain an interest in the business, and Jeff Allis will remain CEO of the company.

Today, Boost has 250 juice bars in 14 countries and a turnover of $125 million. This transaction also saw The Boost Investment Group, previously a majority owner of Salsa’s Fresh Mex Grill, acquire the outstanding equity in the 20-strong Australian chain of Mexican restaurants, according to Feiglin. Post-investment, the intention is to continue to build Boost into a global brand.

Cleveland, Ohio-based Riverside opened its first Australian office in Melbourne last month and is “30 to 60” days away from announcing its second transaction in the country, according to Feiglin. The Melbourne office is the firm’s fourth in Asia; its others are based in Hong Kong, Tokyo and Seoul.

The Boost transaction was made from the Riverside Asia Fund (RAF), which is targeting commitments of $100 million and saw a first close on $25 million in September 2008. Boost is the third “platform” transaction from the RAF. The two previous transactions were the February 2008 buyout of Shinsouki, a Japanese parking lot operator with more than 3000 lots, and the August 2008 buyout of Wiz Korea, a preschool education franchise in Korea.