Wellspring Changes Exit Game Plan

After failing to find a buyer at auction, Wellspring Capital Management filed to take public casual restaurant chain Dave & Buster’s Holdings Inc. The firm is seeking to raise as much $170 million with the IPO.

Wellspring Capital, based in New York, put Dave & Buster’s on the block earlier this year, but the firm wanted too much money for the chain, according to a report in The Deal. Wellspring Capital bought Dave & Buster’s in March 2006 for $375 million and sought as much as $600 million in this year’s auction, according to The Deal. The sale most likely stalled because of the tight credit market coupled with a projected pullback in discretionary consumer spending.

A successful IPO for Dave & Buster’s would represent a rare feat for a buyout shop this year. Through the end of the second quarter of 2008, LBO firms recorded a mere four public exits for companies, including two in the most recent quarter. By contrast, buyout firms listed 10 companies in the second quater of 2007 alone.

Dave & Buster’s, which surrounds patrons with games and television sets in a party setting, generated $81.4 million in EBITDA for the year ended May 4, according to its IPO registration. (The filing did list the previous year’s total) For the quarter ended May 4, the company generated $26.5 million in EBITDA, up from $18.2 million a year before. As of June 30, it owned and operated 49 restaurants in 20 states and Canada.

J.P. Morgan and Jefferies & Co. are underwriting the IPO. The registration statement did not say how many shares the company plans to float, nor did it name a target price for those shares. The company intends to list its stock on the Nasdaq under the symbol “DANB.”

The company said it plans to use $75 million of the net proceeds from the offering to reduce existing debt.

(Karey Wutkowski of Reuters contributed to this report.)