SK USA Inc., a division of Korea-based SK Group, is buying controlling interest in Smoothie King Franchises Inc. of Metairie from co-founders Steve and Cindy Kuhnau. The Kuhnaus founded the company almost four decades ago.

Smoothie King has two Lafayette locations, 4307 Ambassador Caffery Parkway (near Super Target) and 3619 Ambassador Caffery (near Bed, Bath & Beyond), and a store at 113 Nazaire Road in Broussard. Its website shows two pending Lafayette stores.

Mark Knight is the franchisee for the location near Super Target and in Broussard and is developing the two new stores, according to his general manager, Lauren Shepherd. Shepherd says information on the two new stores is not yet available. Knight is president and chief executive officer of Lafayette-based Knight Oil Tools.

An email to a Smoothie King corporate spokeswoman for information on the owner of the other Ambassador store was not immediately answered.

SK USA Inc. is headed by CEO Wan Kim, a Boston University graduate introduced to the Smoothie while he was earning his MBA at the University of California at Irvine. Wan became a huge fan of the concept and opened the first international Smoothie King location in Seoul 2003. As the CEO of Smoothies Korea, he and his company have been an integral part of the Smoothie King organization, going on to open 100 stores in South Korea.

According to a press release announcing the deal, Standard Charter Private Equity (one of the major top 10 banks in the world) and National Pension Fund (world’s fourth largest public pension fund) are making a significant financial investment in the Smoothie King brand. This capital injection will allow Smoothie King to expand the brand worldwide.

Steve Kuhnau will remain with the company and serve as a consultant and brand ambassador representing Smoothie King domestically and internationally.

Smoothie King offers the original nutritional fresh-blended smoothie and healthy retail products, including sports beverages, energy bars, healthy snacks, vitamin supplements, herbs, minerals and other sports nutrition products. Smoothie King opened its first location in 1973 and started as the first franchised smoothie bar/health food store in the United States in 1989. It currently has more than 600 units operating in 32 states, the Caymans and the Republic of Korea. In 2011 Smoothie King was ranked No. 1 by Entrepreneur magazine in the juice bar category for the 18th year, No. 70 overall on the 2011 Franchise 500 list and honored as part of the QSR Global 30.

Read more here.

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