In the span of 30 years, Earl Layne has gone through many incarnations. First as a college jock, then as a financial planner for athletes and entertainers. His latest morph may be his biggest leap yet-donning the role of fast-food franchiser.
Layne, formerly the head of Starx Bank’s Professional Sports Division in Cincinnati along with partner Reggie Wilkes, created ProCap, a management firm, in October. Based in his hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina, ProCap caters to athletes and entertainers while seeking out female and small business owners to provide capital and management expertise.
“That could range from a brokerage relationship to a managed funds relationship,” says Layne. “We can provide due diligence to a client on private placement deals that we’re working on or work with them on deals that may have been provided to them already. Either way, if we like the deal, we’ll put our money in it.” But Layne says his clients, which now include NFL Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Lavon Kirkland and NBA Milwaukee Bucks star Ray Allen, aren’t invested in ProCap the company, but rather some are invested in ProCap deals.
Perhaps ProCap’s most significant deal to date is the purchase of 17 Popeye’s franchises between northern Maryland and southern New Jersey along Interstate 95. Wilkes, the company’s principal investment officer, based in Philadelphia, estimates the cost at $10-$15 million. This allows ProCap clients to provide community-based jobs while including the Popeye’s restaurants as part of their own portfolios. Layne says the company plans to purchase some 40 more stores along that same Delaware-Pennsylvania-New Jersey corridor this year.
“As an SBIC [Small Business Investment Corp.] we have about a $30 million venture fund, which means we’re in business to do deals,” Layne says. “It adds appeal for our clients to say ‘I’m a part-owner of 17 Popeye’s.’ We’ve developed businesses that are close to inner city communities and employ people in those neighborhoods to run the facilities. In other words, we bring jobs to areas where there may be high unemployment. They’re deals that make good sense and are sound.”
Wilkes says the arrangement between athlete and ProCap serves multiple ends. “We hope to go to these players and encourage them to give back to their communities by providing opportunities to minorities and women,” says Wilkes, who played in the NFL for 10 years and also worked for Merrill Lynch. “You can do it in a way where you can create jobs, create wealth, give back to the community and also get a return on your dollar.”