By Al Edwards, Financial Editor
LOCAL BUSINESSMAN Christopher Issa is the front-runner to operate the McDonald's franchise in Jamaica, Wednesday Business understands.
The local franchise of the international fast food chain was run by Patricia Issacs-Green through her management company, Three Rivers Management. She started off ambitiously, opening 12 outlets in just four years but conceded that she had to drastically change her plans if the franchise was to survive this harsh operating environment.
Mrs. Issacs-Greene was to spearhead an ambitious plan that would see the opening of 15 more restaurants throughout the island over the next five years but those plans had to be revised as the economy continued to contract and the local dollar continued to lose ground mainly against its United States counterpart.
Under Mrs. Issacs-Greene's stewardship, McDonald's was capitalised at US$30 million, with her company investing some US$10 million and the parent company putting up some US$20 million, mainly for all the buildings and infrastructure.
In January 2003, the managing director of McDonald's Jamaica relinquished her stake in the McDonald's franchise, stepping down to spend more time with her family and pursue other business interests while looking to divest her stake in the franchise.
Earlier this year, a number of local investors, including the president of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), Beverley Lopez, and local entrepreneur Joey Issa, expressed an interest in acquiring the McDonald's franchise but it now appears that Christopher Issa's bid is gaining favour.
Mr. Issa was unavailable for comment yesterday, and is believed to be in Orlando, Florida for a McDonald's owner/operator convention. McDonald's now has eight outlets in Jamaica: three in Montego Bay, three in Kingston, one in Mandeville and a mobile unit in Portmore.
What makes the McDonald's franchise particularly appealing is that it comes with prime real estate and equipment. It has real estate interests in Cross Roads, New Kingston and Ocho Rios, prime spots awaiting development as outlets.
TRAINING IN U.S.
A spokesperson for Three Rivers Management Company told Wednesday Business: "Both Joey Issa and Christopher Issa have made enquires. Mr. Issa has been made aware that if he did acquire the franchise, both he and his team would have to undergo extensive training by the head office in the United States."
McDonald's Corp. chairman and chief executive, Jim Canta-lupo, credited with recently turning around the American fast food company, died on Monday of an apparent heart attack. He died while attending a franchisee convention in Orlando, Florida.
The company appointed Australian Charlie Bell, the 43-year-old chief operating officer, as his successor. McDonald's operates in 119 countries and has 30,000 hamburger restaurants, as well as the Boston Market and Chipolle chains.