BILLINGS – Wendy’s of Montana has been sold to a Spokane, Washington, company, ending four decades of local ownership of a business that donated millions to Billings-area causes.
Greg McDonald, president of the Billings-based franchisee since 1997, announced Friday in a news release that the operations and assets of 18 fast-food restaurants had been sold to Spokane-based Wenspok Resources, another franchisee. The price of the sale was not released. The McDonald family will continue to own the land under the buildings.
Three employees in the administrative office were laid off, but two have already found new jobs, according to McDonald.
McDonald did not specifically address the future of the Wendy’s of Montana Foundation, the company’s charitable arm that has supported local schools, universities and sports. In an email, McDonald, the foundation's president, said he plans to "continue to support the community that has been so generous to us."
In the news release, McDonald expressed thanks to the community. He will continue to pursue real-estate development in the area for the family, and he still plans to assist with an upcoming golf tournament fundraiser for the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.
“My sister Debbie and I are truly grateful for the loyalty of our employees over the last 38 years. Many of these people have become more like family and friends to me. We will not only miss them but also our great customers. It’s been a heck of a ride with lots of positive memories,” McDonald said.
Wendy’s of Montana has about 700 employees companywide. It owns five Billings stores and 15 total in Montana. Two more are in Wyoming, and one is in Dickinson, North Dakota.
McDonald’s late father, Sam McDonald, opened the state’s first Wendy’s restaurant in 1976 on Grand Avenue in Billings and continued growing the business. Greg McDonald started working at Wendy’s as a summer job in 1977, and he spent 28 years in various management positions.
The McDonalds also became major philanthropists in Billings, perhaps best known for a $400,000 donation for synthetic turf at Daylis Stadium. It’s now known as Wendy’s Field at Daylis Stadium.
The family also donated $1.4 million to Montana State University-Billings College of Business in 2002. This summer, Sam McDonald was inducted posthumously as an inaugural member of the MSUB business Hall of Fame about two years after he died.
The new owners, Wenspok Resources, now own 44 Wendy’s restaurants in seven states: Washington, Idaho, Oregon, California, and now Montana, Wyoming and North Dakota.
Wenspok officials said they plan to keep the Montana leadership team intact, including 26-year veteran executive Richard Mann and longtime operations director Leah Johnson.
“We look forward to continuing the legacy of the McDonald family and are excited to be part of such a wonderful team,” Jennifer Robson, Wenspok’s vice president of real estate, said in a news release.