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September 9, 1999
Restaurant 'Doctor' Sells Chain for $ 13 m
A P Kamath in Houston
For several years, Ghulam Bombaywala has been known as the doctor of the restaurants in Houston. One of the most profiled Asian businessmen in Texas, Bombaywala was known for buying once well-known restaurants which had fallen on bad days. He would then refurnish them, improve the menu, hire new staff and turn them into profitable ventures.
Bombaywala, who says nothing gives him more pleasure than having dal and rice in the evening at home, was an expert in buying and improving Mexican and Italian restaurants.
Bombaywala, who 15 years ago worked as a dishwasher in one of the restaurants he would eventually buy, owned 29 restaurants in the Houston metropolitan area. Like many other South Asian businessmen here, he too came for graduate studies but soon found himself drawn into business.
In recent months his business acumen has been ailing -- his magic touch seems to have been failing of late. And this week, an investment company led by a fellow desi, Haroon Sheikh, bought the restaurants for $ 13 million.
Last week, Judge Manuel D Leal approved a reorganization plan for Bombaywala's company, Watermarc Food Management. Under the new set-up, Sheikh, who is the president of the South Asian Chamber of Commerce, will become the CEO of Watermarc while Bombaywala will continue to be the president.
Bombaywala says the reorganization plan will save the jobs of 1,200 employees at Marco's Mexican Restaurants, The Original Pasta Company and Billy Blues Bar and Grill. Several other restaurants owned by Bombaywala are not affected by the reorganization plan.
Bombaywala says working with Sheikh will help him pay back the credit soonest, and he could then get around to fixing the ailing restaurants.
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