Steak ‘n Shake sues lender Fortress after averting bankruptcy

Steak ‘n Shake Inc. is suing Fortress Investment Group in an Indiana court, accusing the investment firm of misusing confidential business information in a scheme to take control of the restaurant chain’s assets.

Fortress obtained financial information about Steak ‘n Shake in mid-2020 during negotiations for a potential real estate deal, then used the knowledge to inform an attempt to buy the company’s loans, force it into bankruptcy and acquire the chain through a so-called credit bid, the lawsuit alleges.

Representatives for Steak ‘n Shake and Fortress didn’t respond to requests for comment.

After the real estate deal talks began, Fortress and its affiliates bought more than half of Steak ‘n Shake’s first-lien loan due in March 2021, a position worth around $89 million at face value. It then threatened to use the majority position to force Steak ‘n Shake into bankruptcy, according to company’s complaint.

Fortress’s plan, the company says, was to then use its rights as the majority holder of the loan to purchase at a discount the real estate that served as the debt’s collateral. Those properties included ones reviewed during the 2020 negotiations.

Steak ‘n Shake and its advisers were preparing for the potential Chapter 11 filing earlier this month, Bloomberg previously reported, while the company attempted to negotiate the repayment with Fortress. The restaurant chain ultimately paid $102 million to take out the debt, according to the filing.

The restaurant company is suing Fortress for damages related to fighting off its takeover attempt.

“This scheme has cost Steak ‘n Shake millions of dollars and countless hours of management attention at a critical time,” the complaint said. “Fortress must be held to account for its breach, and for its bad faith conduct.”

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