Panera Bread 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 Panera’s initiative to intensify growth in new real estate channels, including hospitals, universities, transportation centers and urban locations, among others.
Terms of the transaction, which is expected to close during the fourth quarter, were not disclosed. ABP was advised by North Point Advisors LLC and Kirkland & Ellis LLP, and Panera was advised by Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP.
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 Co. Inc. 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.
Shaich will step down as CEO effective Jan. 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. 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.
Blaine Hurst, Panera’s president and company veteran who has led many of the company’s most significant innovations over the last half decade, will assume the position of CEO.
Hurst joined Panera in January 2011 as Senior Vice President of Technology and Transformation, charged with building the digital capabilities that would enable Panera 2.0 and Panera’s 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. Hurst 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.; President – Restaurant Technology Solutions at eMac Digital LLC, an enterprise backed by McDonald’s, Accel Partners and KKR & Co.; and Vice President – Information Services at Boston Chicken. He has also been both an entrepreneur and independent consultant, assisting many restaurant, retail and distribution companies in their development and growth.