Economy

Panera Bread swallows Au Bon Pain in a merger

Panera Bread swallows Au Bon Pain in a merger

Panera Bread is rebuying Au Bon Pain Holding Co. Panera will acquire 300 Au Bon Pain locations around the world, primarily located in hubs such as malls, hospitals and transportation centers.

Blaine Hurst, Panera's president and company veteran who has led numerous company's most significant innovations over the last half-decade, will assume the position of CEO. But here's the twist: Panera Bread was actually originally created by Au Bon Pain.

"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". It will be part of Panera's initiative to intensify growth in new real estate channels, including hospitals, colleges and transportation centers, and urban locations.

The seeds of both companies can be traced to a cafe called the Cookie Jar that Shaich opened on Winter Street in downtown Boston in 1980 shortly after finishing his MBA at Harvard Business School.

The chain also announced plans to acquire the sandwich chain Au Bon Pain on Wednesday.

Will this continued consolidation mean we can get Krispy Kremes at Au Bon Pains that are actually Paneras?

In 1991, the company went public, with Shaich on board as the CEO.

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"I've now completed 36 years as a leader of our company and I'm particularly pleased to be able to say that Panera has been the best-performing restaurant stock of the last 20 years, delivering a total shareholder return up 86-fold from July 18, 1997, to July 18, 2017", Shaich said.

It was a tough decision - he compared it to "selling his first son" - but a lucrative move.

Panera Bread is buying a brand it once owned. Financial terms of the deal, set to close in the fourth quarter, were not disclosed. Saint Louis Bread was renamed Panera.

"This is the right time for me to step down as CEO while still staying involved in the business as chairman", Shaich said. He will be succeeded by Blaine Hurst, president of Panera.

Hurst held several posts before becoming the company's president, focusing on manufacturing, supply chain, information technology, digital, human resources and consumer packaged goods. Hurst will continue in his role as president, as well.

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


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