San Antonio-based Whataburger sells to new owners amid expansion plans
After 69 years as a family business, Whataburger has a new owner. In a June 14 release, the beloved San Antonio-based fast-food chain announced that Chicago’s BDT Capital Partners had acquired a majority interest in the company.
The Dobson family, which opened the first restaurant in Corpus Christi in 1950, will hold minority ownership, and the company headquarters will remain in San Antonio, the release says.
The move comes as the brand explores ambitious expansion plans. It is also on the heels of reports that the company was exploring a sale.
“As the brand embarks on a growth and expansion plan, we decided the time was right to promote new leadership to carry the company forward,” said current president and CEO Preston Atkinson in the release. “This leadership team has the right combination of Whataburger core values, strategic vision, and people-centered leadership to take us into the future.”
According to the release, the decision was an emotional one for the Dobson family.
“This is both exciting and bittersweet for the Dobson family. Whataburger has been the heart and soul of our family legacy for nearly 70 years, but we feel really good about the partnership with BDT,” Tom Dobson, Whataburger board chairman and son of founder Harmon Dobson, said in the release. “They have a track record of success with businesses as special as ours that want to grow, while preserving culture and family history.”
BDT, the release states, is a "merchant bank specializing in family and founder-led companies."
Atkinson and Dobson will "retire from the day-to-day operations of the company," the release says, but they will remain on the board. Although the leadership team will be realigned, the company has kept tenured Whataburger executives in strategic roles. Restaurant employees — the company officially calls them "Family Members" — will not see any changes.
Perhaps most important, Texas customers will still be able to get the burgers, chicken sandwiches, and taquitos that have made the chain a cult favorite — and claim Whataburger as their own.