Magic Johnson buys Fatburger

Magic Johnson, who brought high-end coffee shops and movie theatres to blighted areas, is adding gourmet hamburgers to his menu of business ventures with the purchase of the Fatburger restaurant chain.

The former Los Angeles Lakers basketball star said Tuesday he and fellow investors plan to open more than 100 new stores nationwide in both urban and suburban areas, a marked change from his past focus on revitalizing inner-city areas.

"We're still about the urban community, but sometimes you have to venture out," Johnson said. "We're going to do what Fatburger has been doing, but we're just going to take it to another level because a lot of people still don't know about Fatburger."

Terms of the acquisition were not released.

Through his Johnson Development Corp., Johnson has worked to bring economic development to troubled urban areas by opening up his trademark Magic Johnson Theaters, Starbucks coffee houses and T.G.I. Fridays restaurants.

The nearly 50-year-old Fatburger, which was founded in Los Angeles, has 47 restaurants in California, Nevada, Arizona and Washington.

New locations are planned in California and Nevada along with 12 other states in the next five years.

Johnson and fellow investors said they don't expect the economic slowdown to hurt their expansion plans, given that people "still have to eat" and may be getting tired of the mainstream fast-food chains.

Kenneth Lombard, president of Johnson Development Corp., said the investors will look at putting Fatburgers in new types of locations.

"We're looking in airports. We're going to do a lot of things," Lombard said. "We're going to have a very aggressive rollout plan."

By Michelle Dearmond