In November 2003, John Fruehwirth, a principal at Allied Capital, was considering a $20 million mezzanine investment in growth capital for Elephant Bar, a California restaurant chain. Elephant Bar had had some initial success in California but now Allied's investment committee had to wrestle with the question of whether the restaurant concept was strong enough to travel and become a national brand or whether it was mainly a "California Concept." And if the concept was strong enough to travel, would Allied Capital be able to meet its underwriting standards? Because Elephant Bar is a company with aggressive growth plans, it is significantly riskier than traditional mezzanine investments. The case can be used in courses on venture investing to illustrate another funding source available to young companies. Traditional mezzanine financing is often used to provide a portion of the funding for late-stage investments, such as leveraged buyouts. The case can also be used in courses on private equity to illustrate the perspective, risk mitigation strategies, and return expectations of mezzanine investors.
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