Dempsey Gets The Tully's Chain


Barring some sort of unforeseen roadblock, the Tully’s Coffee chain will remain in tact, all thanks to an actor. Global Baristas, the company formed by an investment group led by Patrick Dempsey, won yesterday’s auction—according to Dempsey himself, who declared via Twitter that rival bidder Starbucks “blinked.”

“We met the green monster, looked her in the eye, and … SHE BLINKED!” Dempsey wrote. “We got it! Thank you Seattle!” Tully’s confirmed the deal this morning, saying that Dempsey’s group agreed to pay nearly $10 million for the chain.

The “green monster,” incidentally, was Starbucks, whom we’ve been saying for weeks has been eyeing the chain, mostly for its locations. The company has been looking at some of the best of Tully’s 47 units and had been considered a formidable bidder, given that it could step in and operate the locations at a lower cost point than anybody else and has a tendency to pay top dollar for what it wants. But the price was apparently too much for what would be less than 20 locations.

“We are very encouraged and excited that Patrick Dempsey’s commitment to Tully’s, to the company, the stores and perhaps most importantly, in keeping the members of Tully’s family in place as they are today,” Scott Pearson, CEO of Tully’s parent T.C. Global Inc., said in a statement. “This is a big win for Seattle.”

Dempsey has already proven to be a good spokesman for the brand, and his presence in the deal seems to have ramped up support for the concept. The actor, who plays a doctor often called “McDreamy” on the series Grey’s Anatomy, set in a Seattle hospital, announced his interest in the chain late last month. He has since been a vocal advocate of the company, notably through Twitter, and even posted a picture of himself with a barista on his Twitter account.

Still, he’ll have a challenge on his hands. The coffee business is intensely competitive. And Tully’s has never made a profit on its coffee shops—though Pearson has noted that the company has moving in that direction after the closer of 19 underperforming shops through bankruptcy. The chain was in such bad shape that it had to be sold quickly before it runs out of cash. Still, the Tully’s brand is apparently strong enough to have attracted numerous bidders, including the stalking horse bidder Kachi Partners, which had bid $4.3 million for the concept.

A court hearing has been set for January 11 to approve the deal. The sale is expected to close by the end of the month. And then Dempsey’s real work begins.


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