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January 03, 2017

Rita's water ice acquired as national, global expansion move forward

What began as the humble summertime dream of a former Philadelphia firefighter is now a household name in large parts of the United States, where lips keep turning every color on the spectrum. 

In a deal announced Tuesday, Argosy Private Equity and MTN Capital have purchased Rita's Franchise Company, LLC., the Trevose-based company that has spawned hundreds of huts across the country over the past 30-plus years.

Now dubbed Rita's Italian Ice, the company was founded in 1984 by Bob Tumolo, who chose the name to honor his mother. The company was sold to McKnight Capital in 2005 and later acquired by Falconhead for $30 million in 2011.

Now with more than 600 U.S. locations in 30 states and operating businesses in China, the Philippines, Canada and the Middle East, Rita's will move forward under the continued leadership of President and CEO Jeff Moody. Kirk Griswold, Founding Partner at Argosy Private Equity, will join Rita's board as Chairman. The company dropped the colloquial "water ice" phrase as it expanded beyond Philadelphia and added frozen custards, gelato, milkshakes and other items to its menu. 

"Being Philly based, we know firsthand the love that guests have for Rita's," said Griswold. "Falconhead and the executive leadership team have done a tremendous job growing this once regional brand nationally, and even internationally. We're looking forward to working with Rita's management team and devoted franchise partners to continue the company's growth and extend its guest loyalty and unique brand equity to each and every store, systemwide."

The financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. Argosy Private Equity, based in Wayne, holds more than $600 million in assets, including American Huts, Inc., a franchisee operating Pizza Hut locations in Florida and Tennessee. New York-based MTN Capital has been associated with more than $500 million in business aqcuisitions focused on lower middle-market companies in retail, consumer products and manufacturing.