Three private equity companies withdrew their executives from the Burger King board yesterday amid rumours they are to sell their $1.2 billion (£607 million) stake in the fast food giant. TPG Capital, Bain Capital and Goldman Sachs Funds are expected to sell their remaining 32% stake by the end of the year. At the beginning of May, the three groups said that they were selling 15 million Burger King shares through a secondary offering in a move that will reduce their combined stake from 43% to 31.6%. The funds have been decreasing their holdings over the past year, having made a 424 % return on their combined investment in Burger King since they acquired the company in 2002. They trio bought the company, known as the home of the Whopper, for $1.5 billion six years ago from Diageo, the UK producer of Guinness. The three firms then refloated the business two years ago, raising $425 million. Before the float, the private equity groups paid themselves $367 million in dividends and have been paring their stake ever since. David Bonderman, Andrew Balson and Adrian Jones, representatives of TPG, Bain and Goldman Sachs, said yesterday that they plan to resign from the Burger King board, on which they serve as nonexecutive directors, at the end of June. Brian Swette, the chairman of Burger King, also said that he would reduce his role to become a nonexecutive. John Chidsey, the chief executive, has been promoted to joint chairman and chief executive. John Owens, a food sector analyst for Morningstar, the Chicago brokers, said: “Over time we expect them to sell out. It’s hard to speak for them, but I would not be surprised if over the next year or two they sell their entire stake completely. They have been selling since their lockup expired.” Burger King has boosted sales by international expansion into countries such as China and it has also increased its business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Although fast-food businesses are not immune to a recession, ones such as Burger King tend to fare well in hard times because Americans will trade down when their budgets are limited, eating at a cheaper restaurant rather than not dining out at all. Big chains such as McDonald’s and Burger King can also afford to keep prices lower because their size allows them harder bargaining power, even when food costs are soaring.