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Centre Partners Announces Successful Realization of Investment in Garden Fresh Holdings, Inc.

Centre Partners, a leading middle market private equity firm with offices in Los Angeles and New York, announced last week the sale of Garden Fresh Holdings, Inc. to affiliates of Sun Capital Partners, Inc. Garden Fresh is a leading national soup, salad, and pasta buffet restaurant chain operating under the trade names Souplantation® and Sweet Tomatoes®.

According to Centre Partners Managing Director Robert Bergmann, the firm acquired a controlling stake in Garden Fresh in a friendly, going private transaction in March 2004 in partnership with its management team. Co-investors included Fairmont Capital, Inc. and Northwestern Mutual.

Bergmann said, “This transaction concludes a highly successful investment for Centre Partners and we credit the efforts of Garden Fresh’s talented management team led by Michael Mack and David Qualls. We have been active investors in the restaurant industry for many years, and have rarely seen a business respond so quickly to a set of new strategic priorities.”

He added, “Garden Fresh’s innovative management team and its outstanding execution, as well as the proven nature of the concept, bode well for the restaurant chain’s continued success.”

Michael Mack, chief executive officer of Garden Fresh, commented: “We made a great decision in partnering with Centre. The firm’s local presence, knowledge of our industry, and commitment to supporting our strategic plan were integral to our efforts to increase the value of our restaurant chain. We are very pleased with the results and appreciate the help that Centre provided us.”

Headquartered in San Diego, Calif., Garden Fresh operates 97 locations in 15 states and has over $240 million of annual revenues. Garden Fresh offers a broad variety of fresh food alternatives in an “all-you-care-to-eat” format. Garden Fresh has a history of strong financial performance, with same store sales growth in ten consecutive fiscal years.

The sale of Garden Fresh follows on the heels of another successful San Diego-based investment by Centre, Bumble Bee, which was sold to Connors Bros. Income Fund in 2004.

Centre Partners Managing Partner Bruce Pollack explained, “While very different businesses, Garden Fresh and Bumble Bee both demonstrate what can be achieved when strong management teams are aligned with the right strategic and financial support.”

Piper Jaffray & Co. served as exclusive financial advisor to Garden Fresh in connection with the transaction.