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Reversal: Franchisor acquiring Franchisees

The trend has been for franchisors, especially for publicly traded ones, to sell more and more of their corporate owned stores. Why? The financial argument has been that earnings are stabilized by managing a franchise operation (simple income streams) rather than managing the nuances of local operating businesses. And, for the most part that makes sense both financial and practically.

One company who is bucking that trend is Swisher Hygiene, acquired in 2004 for less than $20 million by Steven Berrard and Wayne Huizenga…the team behind AutoNation, Blockbuster and Waste Management. While their business haven’t all been models of success except for AutoNation, they have grown business fast and made a lot of money. Berrard was also CEO of Jamba Juice.

You probably have never heard of Swisher Hygiene. The company sells low cost chemicals and cleaning services to business, especially foodservice and restaurants, such as the 3-compartment sink systems where EcoLab has traditionally dominated. In 2004, it was making an average of $17 per week per customer, with a base of about 30,000 clients. They feel the opportunity in this $9 billion market is in increasing sales to each existing customer and acquiring new ones. Swisher also was an amalgamation of 93 franchisees all working out of their trucks. Now, they acquired most of their franchisees, most recently their Chicago franchisee.

The stock has fluctated greatly in the past year when it went from $2 to $10 per share, now it’s back down to about $5 per share.

I don’t know if they will succeed, but it will make for an interesting case study one day. Hopefully the franchisees who took a buyout with stock will be better off than they were as franchisees.

About Ryan Knoll

Attorney and advisor with an interest in franchising. Feel free to email me comments and questions on the "Contact Us" page.

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