Published: Fri, November 10, 2017
Markets | By Rosalie Gross

Panera Bread Founder Ron Shaich to Step Down as CEO

Panera Bread Founder Ron Shaich to Step Down as CEO

"Shaich, who helped revolutionize the restaurant business while making Panera Bread one of the largest chains in the country, is stepping down ... to "better allocate his time" between Panera, the company's new owner [in a deal announced in April that closed in July], JAB Holdings, and his personal investments".

Panera CEO Ron Shaich will step down as CEO effective January 1, 2018, allowing him to better allocate his time between Panera; initiatives for JAB, which acquired Panera in July; and his personal investments and interests, according to a company press release. Shaich will stay on as the chairman of Panera's board of directors and continue to work on the chain's "strategy, communications and acquisitions".

Shaich added that the time was right for him to step aside as the CEO, while staying involved with the business as its chairman. JAB Holding Co. acquired Panera for $7.5 billion in July and took the company private.

Panera, which operates locally as St. Louis Bread Co., is buying Boston's Au Bon Pain, a chain of 304 restaurants, in a bid to expand to hospitals, universities and other urban locations. In 1997, Au Bon Pain made a decision to rename that company Panera Bread - and by 1999, Panera Bread was growing at such a clip that Shaich's team decide to sell off the Au Bon Pain brand to focus more exclusively on Panera.

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"The past seven years have given me the opportunity to learn from an industry icon", Hurst said.

Shaich is no stranger to Au Bon Pain, having merged his cookie store, the Cookie Jar, with the bakery in the 1980s, creating the Au Bon Pain Company. Terms of yesterday's deal were not disclosed. "I returned in 2011 because our growth was slowing and we needed to reposition Panera as a better competitive alternative with expanded growth opportunities".

Before joining Panera, Hurst was vice chairman and president at Papa John's International Inc.

Hurst held several posts before becoming the company's president, focusing on manufacturing, supply chain, information technology, digital, human resources and consumer packaged goods. "And I'm happy to say we've done just that", Shaich said in a statement. We've built a great team - in fact, it's the best team I know of in the restaurant industry. "I thank Ron and JAB for their confidence in me".

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