An investment group associated with Dean Riesen, former chairman of Famous Dave’s, has snapped up the ailing Romano’s Macaroni Grill chain for the fire sale price of $8 million.

Riesen, an erstwhile Twin Cities businessman now based in Phoenix, was Famous Dave’s non-executive chair, leaving last June after a shake-up at the Minnetonka-based barbecue chain. Riesen was also a high-ranking executive at the Carlson companies from 1985 to 2001.

A subsidiary of Riesen’s Rimrock Partners recently scooped up Macaroni Grill from Ignite Restaurant Group. Macaroni Grill has 146 locations in 33 states, including one each in Edina and Roseville.

A Minnetonka Macaroni Grill outlet closed recently, one of over 20 underperformers nationwide that have been shuttered over the past year or so.

Macaroni Grill is a well-known restaurant brand. But the Houston-based chain has been stumbling badly, its sales sinking. Ignite unloaded Macaroni Grill after buying it only two years ago for $55 million, almost 7 times its recent sales price.

John Gilbert, Famous Dave’s CEO for 16 months until his abrupt departure early last year, went on to run Macaroni Grill under Ignite. He will be Macaroni Grill’s chief executive officer under the new ownership.

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