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Panera’s St. Louis Beginnings Not Part Of Narrative, Sold To European Investment Firm

April 10, 2017 Featured, Retail No Comments
Panera Bread, Carbondale IL

Last week we learned that Panera is being sold to a German European investment firm:

JAB Holding Co., the owner of Caribou Coffee and Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, said Wednesday that it would buy Sunset Hills-based Panera Bread Co. in a deal valued at about $7.5 billion, including debt, as it expands its coffee and breakfast empire.

Unlike other St. Louis-based companies that have been bought up, there were no financial struggles indicating a sale was coming, no succession questions, no negotiation drama. Panera’s sale came out of the blue, even to analysts who follow the industry. (Post-Dispatch)

Panera locations locally are called St. Louis Bread Company, the name used on the Kirkwood location opened in 1987.  As I said in a recent post, Panera CEO Ron Shaich is from Boston — and he continues to live there.

Nationally Panera’s connection to St. Louis isn’t mentioned at all:

Ron Shaich, Panera’s personable chief executive who controls roughly 15 percent of its stock, said one of the biggest attractions to the JAB deal was the chance to take his company private.

“For the last 20 years, I’ve spent 20 percent of my time telling people what we’ve done to grow and another 20 percent of my time telling people what we’re going to do to grow,” Mr. Shaich said in an interview. “I won’t have to do that anymore.”

Investment analysts have speculated for years that Mr. Shaich, 63, has been looking for a way to reduce his role at the company after spending more than two decades building it up from a tiny 400-square foot cookie store in Boston. (New York Times)

The original creator of St. Louis Bread Co., Ken Rosenthal, sold out back in 1993 — his small chain is not part of Panera’s narrative. To be fair, it is mentioned in their history:

The Panera Bread® legacy began in 1981 as Au Bon Pain Co., Inc. Founded by Louis Kane and Ron Shaich, the company prospered along the east coast of the United States and internationally throughout the 1980s and 1990s and became the dominant operator within the bakery-cafe category.

In 1993, Au Bon Pain Co., Inc. purchased Saint Louis Bread Company®, a chain of 20 bakery-cafes located in the St. Louis area.

The company then managed a comprehensive re-staging of Saint Louis Bread Co. Between 1993 and 1997 average unit volumes increased by 75%. Ultimately the concept’s name was changed to Panera Bread.

By 1997, it was clear that Panera Bread had the potential to become one of the leading brands in the nation. In order for Panera Bread to reach its potential, it would require all of the company’s financial and management resources. (Panera)

When the deal closes in the 2nd half of this year, Panera will be a subsidiary of JAB Holdings. The good news is other JAB subsidiaries appear to keep their headquarters where they were when purchased.

— Steve Patterson

 

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