KarpReilly-backed Z’Tejas files Chapter 11

Cornbread Ventures LP made a stalking horse bid for Z’Tejas and offered to pay roughly $4 million, including $1.38 million in credit, $2.34 million in cash, plus the assumption of debt, according to a bankruptcy court filing dated July 22. A deadline for competing bids and sale objections is set for September 15, while an auction is scheduled for September 17. The Z’Tejas sale hearing is slated for September 25, the filings said.

No information was available about Cornbread Ventures as of press time. 

Austin-based Z’Tejas offers Southwestern-style cuisine through its nine full-service restaurants in Arizona, Texas and California. Dishes include Red Chile and Mango Steak Salad, Diablo Pasta and Chorizo-stuffed Pork Tenderloin. Z’Tejas also operates a separate dining concept, Taco Guild, a pub-style eatery, that is also included in the bankruptcy.

KarpReilly invested in Z’Tejas in May 2007 when it took a majority stake. The deal was valued at between $25 million and $35 million, according to press reports at the time

Z’Tejas has suffered from reduced consumer discretionary spending, a competitive industry plus its over-leveraged balance sheet, which have all adversely impacted the company’s financial performance, the filing said. Z’Tejas began exploring strategic options last year and hired Mastodon Ventures Inc to find a buyer, Buyouts reported last July. Mastodon also advised Elephant Bar, another KarpReilly restaurant, which ended up filing for bankruptcy protection in June 2014.

Mastodon contacted about 108 potential targets, of which nearly 67 executed confidentiality agreements, the filing said. In January, Mastodon and Z’Tejas identified a potential buyer who conducted due diligence, toured restaurant locations and even met with company management. The unnamed party backed out in March, the filing said. The following month Mastodon received another eight indications of interest for Z’Tejas. The parties conducted diligence and met with management, but Z’Tejas was unable to clinch any definitive agreements, the filing said.

“Under these circumstances, the debtors determined that the stalking horse bidder represented the highest and best offer with the most certainty currently available and established a substantial floor for further bidding,” the filing said.

KarpReilly, Mastodon and Z’Tejas could not immediately be reached for comment.

Separately, another KarpReilly-backed company, Comarkthis week reached an agreement to be sold to Canadian private equity firm Stern Partners after filing for bankruptcy protection earlier this year.