Ownership of one of Boston’s most iconic restaurant brands is changing hands. Legal Sea Foods is being sold to the Medford-based PPX Hospitality Group. PPX is a subsidiary of the Irish investment firm Danu Partners, which also owns the Smith & Wollensky steakhouse chain, as well as three Strega locations (Strega Waterfront, Strip by Strega, and Strega Prime).
PPX will become the owners of the rights to the Legal Sea Foods name for restaurants, but Legal chief executive Roger Berkowitz, whose family opened the chain in 1968, will retain the rights to the name for his online business, which sells seafood (fresh and prepared), chowder, tee shirts, cooking equipment, gift cards, and more.
Berkowitz told the Boston Globe that focussing on the online business will be a bit like returning to his roots, in a sense. Before opening the first Legal Sea Foods restaurant, Berkowitz’s parents ran a fish market by the same name in Inman Square, at which a young Roger Berkowitz worked.
“I started on the fish counter, cutting fish, going down to the pier, buying fish,” Berkowitz told the Globe. “Reconnecting to the fish business is very appealing to me.”
Despite Legal’s obvious success and ubiquity — before the pandemic struck it operated 33 locations, employed 3,500 workers, and brought in $200 million in annual revenue — it struggled to cope with the COVID-19 outbreak. Berkowitz, who at one point considered finding an investment partner to help save his business, told the Globe he would not be selling Legal Sea Foods if the pandemic never occurred.
In the initial wake of the pandemic’s onset, Legal Sea Foods sued its insurer, Strathmore Insurance Co., for rejecting a claim it filed for damages resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. The seafood chain claimed that its “all risks” policy should have covered losses incurred by dine-in shutdowns in Massachusetts and the other states in which it operates.
Legal Sea Foods’ insurance policy doesn’t contain a pandemic exclusion. Pandemic exclusions became common practice for most major insurance companies in the wake of the SARS epidemic of 2003. According to the Globe, Berkowitz would receive most of the proceeds from any settlement of the lawsuit, which is still pending.
• With Sale of Legal Sea Foods, Another Boston Institution Changes Hands [BG]
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• Legal Sea Foods Is Suing Its Insurer for Denying Its Coronavirus Claim [EBOS]
• Massachusetts Could Require Insurance Companies to Cover Business Losses Caused by COVID-19 [EBOS]