Merlin Reiser had $6,000 in his bank account when he moved his young family to Monroe, Louisiana, to open the community’s first Sonic drive-in in 1977. As a growing franchise business, Sonic provided tremendous opportunity for this entrepreneur looking to grow.
And grow it did.
Over the next four decades, The Reiser Group became one of the largest franchisees within the Sonic system with 38 locations throughout Louisiana, Alabama, Florida and Texas.
Over time, Reiser brought his family into the business to grow the brand. With two sons (including Paul who got involved with the business at the age of 9), two sons-in-law and a daughter actively involved with the business, the family really ramped up growth in the late ‘90s/early 2000s.
As the second generation neared retirement age with no clear family succession in place, the family had some decisions to make about what came next. The family tasked Bob Lare, owner and CFO of The Reiser Group, with researching its options.
“I was originally focused on separating the real estate and the business, thinking selling each separately would yield a higher overall value,” Lare said.
He reached out to a pair of Regions bankers: Kevin Smith, a Commercial Banking leader, and Commercial Banking relationship manager Tara Odell. In turn, they suggested introductions to the Regions Merger and Acquisition team.
That led to a call with Matt Welch from Regions Securities.
“The conversations with Regions Securities were very compelling, and we ultimately decided as a family that we’d be more likely to maximize the value of the Company by going with Regions.”
The Reiser Group’s relationship with Regions Bank began in 2002, when the Commercial Banking team refinanced the company’s debt and moved their primary deposit and treasury relationship. The relationship continued to grow through the next two decades as the company and its owners developed even deeper relationships throughout the bank.
“The long relationship with Regions really tipped the scales, making the transaction much easier,” said Paul Reiser. “It is very emotional selling a family business of 45 years. Thinking about our longstanding relationship with Kevin, he had a lot of confidence in us early on so when it came time to execute our exit strategy, we had the upmost confidence in Kevin, Tara, Matt and the entire team at Regions.”
“There was a lot of interest in The Reiser Group from the start,” Welch said. “We marketed the business to a large group of buyers that included other Sonic franchisees, restaurant groups looking to add the Sonic brand to their portfolio, private equity groups, as well as REITS (Real Estate Investment Trusts).”
In July 2021, Sonic Industries LLC acquired 100 percent of the operating and real estate interests of The Reiser Group Sonics, with Regions Securities serving as the sole sell-side financial advisor.
“Matt and his team did a fantastic job,” Paul Reiser shared. “I thought it would be like selling a house; they’d bring us a few offers and we’d make a decision and close. But they really held our hands through what was a complex process, and though it took some time, it was so worth it in the end.”