By Kamaron Leach
Multimedia personality Lenard “Charlamagne Tha God” McKelvey has entered a partnership with the fast food chain Krystal Co., making way for the Comedy Central television host to open stores just outside his South Carolina hometown.
The deal with McKelvey, 44, and wife, Jessica Gadsen-McKelvey, includes co-branding six franchises in the greater Charleston area. The first location has been designated to be in Moncks Corner, South Carolina, where the couple both came of age.
“We’ve already got the site location where we’re building it and everything,” said McKelvey, a New York Times best selling author and prominent host on iHeartMedia Inc.’s syndicated radio program The Breakfast Club. “So literally, first quarter of 2023 you will definitely see the first one pop up.”
The deal follows revitalized branding efforts on behalf of Krystal. This year, the Atlanta-based company named hip-hop artist 2 Chainz as its first-ever head of creative marketing. McKelvey credits the rapper as well as Krystal’s diverse executive ranks for inspiring his involvement. Other Krystal partners include former National Football League wide receiver Victor Cruz.
“We want the Krystal brand to continue to be part of the culture and fabric of the communities we serve and we look forward to doing so in our own unique Southern style with a little bit of swag,” said Jonathan Childs, managing parter at Krystal Restaurants. “Both Charlamagne and Jessica embody these qualities and we’re ecstatic to bring Krystal to the greater Charleston area and expand our footprint nationally.”
The overall partnership with Krystal is valued at $12.5 million, according to a person familiar with the situation who asked not to be identified because the details were private.
Krystal, whose first restaurant opened in 1932 in Chattanooga, Tennessee, had been owned by Atlanta-based investment firm Argonne Capital Group LLC until 2020.
Inspired by former National Basketball Association player Ulysses Lee “Junior” Bridgeman’s roughly billion-dollar portfolio of Wendy’s and artist Rick Ross’s partnership with Wingstop Inc., Mckelvey said he has always wanted to get into the franchise business.
“It’s just something that my wife and I have always thought about doing,” he disclosed in an interview by phone. “We were just waiting on the right opportunity and I just really love the direction that Krystal’s is going in.”
In addition to hosting on Paramount Inc.’s Comedy Central channel, McKelvey has also built on his business success. In 2020, he extended his relationship with iHeartMedia to launch the Black Effect podcast network. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Bob Pittman touted Charlamagne as “an unparalleled multi-platform creator whose impact extends across radio, digital, social, TV, events and podcasts.”
Also that year, Audible Inc., seeking to help expand the platform’s reach with diverse voices, announced a joint, multi-year partnership with McKelvey and comedian Kevin Hart. Still, McKelvey credits his growing portfolio to radio.
“That is my passion, and everything else that you see me doing is literally fruit off the tree of radio,” said McKelvey.
(Updates with valuation in sixth paragraph)
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