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Panera Bread to Acquire Au Bon Pain

Panera Bread announced 8 November that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Au Bon Pain Holding Co Inc, parent company of Au Bon Pain. The Boston-based bakery-cafe chain has 304 units worldwide, and will be part of St. Louis, Missouri-based Panera’s initiative to intensify growth in new real estate channels. Terms of the transaction, which is expected to close during the fourth quarter, were not disclosed.

The acquisition will bring Au Bon Pain and Panera together again. Ron Shaich, Panera’s founder, chairman and CEO, and his late partner Louis Kane, created Au Bon Pain in 1981. The company went public in 1991 and acquired Saint Louis Bread Company in 1993. Saint Louis Bread was renamed Panera and, in 1999, Au Bon Pain was sold so that all human and capital resources available at that time could be focused on Panera.

“With the acquisition, we are bringing Au Bon Pain and Panera together again. This acquisition offers the strategic opportunity for us to grow in several new real estate channels, including hospitals, universities, transportation centers and urban locations, among others,” says Shaich.

Panera Bread said that Shaich will step down as CEO effective 1 January 2018, allowing him to better allocate his time between Panera initiatives for JAB, which acquired Panera in July; and his personal investments and interests. Shaich, who will be a significant investor in the company, will remain chairman of Panera’s Board of Directors and will continue to work on strategy, communications and acquisitions for Panera.

“This is the right time for me to step down as CEO while still staying involved in the business as chairman,” says Shaich. “I returned in 2011 because our growth was slowing, and we needed to reposition Panera as a better competitive alternative with expanded growth opportunities. And I’m happy to say we’ve done just that.”

Blaine Hurst, Panera’s president, who has led many of the company’s most significant innovations over the last half decade, will assume the position of CEO. He joined Panera in January 2011 as svp of technology and transformation, charged with building the digital capabilities that would enable Panera 2.0 and Panera’s e-Commerce platform. Hurst was elected evp of technology and transformation in May 2013, and evp and chief transformation and growth officer in October 2014. He was named president in December 2016 when his responsibilities were expanded to include Panera’s core café business as well as Panera’s technology, delivery and catering organizations. Earlier in his career, Hurst was vice chairman and president at Papa John’s International Inc.

“Blaine has been a key player in our efforts to transform Panera during the past half-decade,” shares Shaich. “After years of working with Blaine, I am very confident that under Blaine’s leadership Panera will continue to outperform the industry and make a real difference in the lives of our guests and team members.”

“I’m excited about the future of Panera. We’ve built a great team – in fact, it’s the best team I know of in the restaurant industry. I’m looking forward to continuing to work with them and our partners at JAB as we take Panera forward,” says Blaine Hurst. “With exciting new initiatives underway to better serve our customers and improve their dining experience, I believe our opportunity is even brighter.”

“We are deeply grateful for Ron’s amazing contributions to Panera’s success over the last decades. Ron has developed Panera into an iconic brand from scratch and one that continues to develop market-leading innovations that appeal to today’s health-conscious, on-the-move consumer,” says Olivier Goudet, CEO and partner at JAB. “At the same time, we are very happy to see Blaine Hurst take over as CEO. He has worked closely with Ron over the last several years on many of Panera’s most important initiatives. With the partnership of Blaine as the new CEO and Ron as its chairman, we expect Panera to continue on its successful growth trajectory over the long term.”

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