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Wing House restaurant chain sold to Tampa investment fund

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Published:   |   Updated: July 3, 2014 at 02:09 PM

TAMPA — Executives of Ker’s Wing House didn’t just sell a basket of chicken wings on Thursday. They sold the whole Tampa-based restaurant chain.

The deal includes 24 restaurants across Florida — a 25th will open soon — to a Tampa-based private, family investment fund called Third Lake Capital. The fund is run by Ken Jones, the former top executive of the Republican National Convention Host Committee.

“The founder, Crawford Ker, will stay on as CEO and the store concept and brand will remain exactly as they are today,” Jones said. “We’re going to work with that team to promote the vision and brand that he’s built over the last 20 years.”

That brand is squarely focused on the specific genre of guy-focused sports bar, akin to brands such as Hooters, Brick House and Tilted Kilt that put scantily clad, all-female servers front and center. The first Wing House opened in Largo in 1994, led by Ker, a former University of Florida football player who went on to play for the Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, and officials with Wing House referred all questions to Jones.

Third Lake Capital has largely operated behind the scenes since it was founded in Tampa a year ago to manage the massive fortune amassed by Ashley Furniture founder Ronald Wanek, who has moved to St. Petersburg full time.

Since then, Jones said the company has made more than 100 investments around the world and focuses on a range of markets. Rather than so-called buy-and-flip deals, Jones said, Third Lake Capital seeks out high-performing management teams, acquires companies and invests in them to expand their reach.

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rmullins@tampatrib.com

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