Prestley and Curtis Blake Fribble Helps Melt A Friendly’s Family Feud
June 2, 2014 by staff
Prestley and Curtis Blake Fribble Helps Melt A Friendly’s Family Feud, Behind the scenes of the battle for control of Friendly Ice Cream is a tale of two brothers who founded the company during the Great Depression only to become estranged after disagreements over its future.
Following pressure form an activist investor, Friendly’s last week said that it had hired Goldman Sachs to help it explore a possible sale. That investor, Sardar Biglari, who runs The Lion Fund, has found an ally in one of the founding brothers, Prestley Blake, who currently holds 13 percent of the company and is backing Mr. Biglari’s proxy battle.
Now, The Boston Globe reports, Curtis Blake, who has not spoken to his older brother in more than a year, has sent a letter to Prestley at the urging of company management asking him to reconsider his loyalties.
Calling Mr. Biglari “a corporate raider”, Curtis told his brother in a January letter: “Our company is now in a very precarious position. You alone are now in the position to control the entire future.”
Never has there been more friction at Friendly Ice Cream and anxiety over its future. The New England company, which makes a New England classic known as a Fribble milkshake, is now saddled with huge debt, dismal customer ratings, and angry shareholders. Just months after naming a new chief executive it enticed from Dunkin’ Donuts, the board decided to consider selling the business.
Last fall, Mr. Biglari asked for a seat on the company’s board of directors. Friendly’s agreed but with conditions that he not seek additional seats on the six-person board. Mr. Biglari refused, and in a recent letter to shareholders, said he and a business partner are running against two incumbents who are up for re-election at the annual shareholder meeting in May. The day after Mr. Biglari released his letter on March 6, Friendly’s said it might put the company up for sale.
Friendly’s largest franchisee, the Kessler Family, has said it is considering a bid for the company and The Deal.com cited a long list of private equity bidders who might make a run at the shop should it go on the block.
As for the warring brothers, The Globe notes that neither seems happy about the state of affairs.
“I’m sorry my brother isn’t with me on this,” Prestley told The Globe, “but I’m going to keep going because I know I’m right. I’m going to keep going until I can’t go any further.”
Curtis, who is 89, told the newspaper: “I’m very disappointed. He was my best friend for 85 years. It would have been a nice story if we ended up best friends for our entire life.” Prestley is 92.
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