Panera Bread Agrees to Acquire Au Bon Pain

Panera Bread Agrees to Acquire Au Bon Pain”

Mr. Shaich and his late partner Louis Kane created Au Bon Pain Co.

Terms of the transaction, which is expected to close during the fourth quarter, were not disclosed. In a deal announced Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017, Panera Bread says it is buying bakery chain Au Bon Pain to boost its presence in airports, hospitals and colleges.

The deal has nostalgic tones as well.

Also Wednesday, the company announced that its founder, Ron Shaich will step down as CEO of Panera Bread Jan. 1, 2018, but will remain board chairman. Au Bon Pain became a public company in 1991 and it bought a bakery two years later that was renamed Panera.

St. Louis-based Panera now has more than 2,000 restaurants and employs about 100,000. By 1999, the company owned or franchised 265 Au Bon Pain shops and 125 Panera locations, but Shaich saw more growth opportunities in Panera and sold off the Au Bon Pain portion of the business to a private equity firm.

The companies did not disclose on Wednesday how much Panera was paying for Au Bon Pain, which it says will boost its presence at airports, hospitals and colleges.

Panera's new CEO will be Blaine Hurst, who is now serving as the brand's president, and who played a major role in the "Panera 2.0" roll-out.

Panera Bread was acquired by JAB Holding in July for approximately $7.5 billion. A year later, he merged the concept with a small three-bakery chain called Au Bon Pain and began selling healthy, low-priced meals marketed as a quality alternative to fast food. They also helped lead to an unprecedented rush of investment into the restaurant space and other fast-casual chains.

Hurst, meanwhile, joined Panera in January 2011 as senior vice president of technology and transformation and was charged with guiding Panera 2.0 and its e-commerce platform. He was elected Executive Vice President of Technology and Transformation in May 2013, and EVP and Chief Transformation and Growth Officer in October 2014. "I returned in 2011 because our growth was slowing and we needed to reposition Panera as a better competitive alternative with expanded growth opportunities".

Blaine Hurst, president of Panera, is taking over the CEO post.

"The past seven years have given me the opportunity to learn from an industry icon", Hurst said in a statement. "I thank Ron and JAB for their confidence in me".

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