BETHESDA, Md. -- Sutton Place Gourmet here said it was acquired late last month by Mark Ordan, founder of the Fresh Fields natural-foods chain, in association with Bear Stearns Merchant Banking, the private equity arm of Bear Stearns Co., New York.
The terms of the transaction have not been disclosed, according to a Sutton Place spokesman, but he added that Bear Stearns agreed to invest up to $50 million in the company.
Ordan has been named Sutton Place's chief executive officer, succeeding Clifford Smith, who has left the company, the spokesman noted.
The spokesman said the company will seek to develop "economies of scale" between Sutton Place's 11 stores and one restaurant -- which span the East Coast from Alexandria, Va., to Richfield, Conn. -- and Ordan's current business, High Noon cafes, a chain of four upscale eateries in Washington (with a fifth scheduled to open early next year in Rosslyn, Va.).
In October, Ordan was quoted in a published report about buying Sutton Place in conjunction with Bear Stearns and expanding the chain, but the spokesman said Ordan's first priority at the company will be to assess current operations.
"These are good stores with strong brand equity," he said, "but the previous owner did not have the financial resources to bring to bear. Our first step will be to upgrade good stores into great stores."
He added, "Right now, we're operating 16 units from Virginia to Connecticut. That gives us a lot of room for expansion in the future."
In 1991, Ordan founded Fresh Fields, Rockville, Md. The company operated 22 stores when it was acquired by Whole Foods Market, Austin, Texas, in 1996.