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Whataburger Under New Leadership, Majority Interest

The flagship Whataburger restaurant on Shoreline Drive in Corpus Christi is known for the view from its second floor and the bronze statue of founder Harmon Dobson.

Whataburger ownership has shifted. While the founding family is still involved in the burger chain, majority interest has moved to BDT Capital Partners, the company announced Friday, June 14. The Chicago-based merchant bank invests in family- and founder-led companies. Whataburger began in 1950 as a roadside food stand owned by Harmon Dobson.

According to a news release, the new Whataburger team expects to expand its properties “while staying true to the brand it has been over the past 69 years.”

Now headquartered in San Antonio, Whataburger has 828 restaurants in 10 states and sales of more than $2 billion a year.

Along with the new ownership status comes change in leadership. While President and CEO Preston Atkinson and Board Chairman Tom Dobson will retain seats on the Board of Directors, they are both retiring from day-to-day operations. Chief Financial Officer Ed Nelson will be promoted to president as of July 1.

“As the brand embarks on a growth and expansion plan, we decided the time was right to promote new leadership to carry the company forward,” Atkinson said in the news release.

“This leadership team has the right combination of Whataburger core values, strategic vision and people-centered leadership to take us into the future.”

The chain has 43,000 employees, called Family Members along with its millions of fans.

“This is both exciting and bittersweet for the Dobson family,” said Tom Dobson. “Whataburger has been the heart and soul of our family legacy for nearly 70 years, but we feel really good about the partnership with BDT. They have a track record of success with businesses as special as ours that want to grow, while preserving culture and family history. They are trusted advisors and partners who have worked closely with other family businesses and they have a tremendous reputation for doing the right thing.”

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