Ron Shaich is bringing Au Bon Pain back into the fold as he makes a graceful exit.
Panera Bread said Wednesday that it has a deal with private-equity firm LNK Partners to acquire the Boston-based Au Bon Pain Holding Co. Inc. — which Panera sold 18 years ago.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Panera said it acquired the 304-unit Au Bon Pain to intensify its growth in nontraditional areas like hospitals, universities, transit centers and urban locations.
The company said in a release that Panera's CEO Shaich will step down effective Jan. 1, 2018, to split his time between Panera, JAB Holdings and other interests.
Shaich managed a cookie franchise in 1981 when he and his late partner Louis Kane created Au Bon Pain in 1981. The company went public in 1991.
In 1993, Au Bon Pain acquired a little-known bakery-café chain called Saint Louis Bread Company. They renamed the chain Panera Bread. In 1999, opting to focus on Panera, the company sold Au Bon Pain to Bruckmann, Rosser, Sherrill & Co.
Panera Bread has since grown to become one of the biggest chains in the U.S., with more than 2,000 locations and $5 billion in system sales.
“We are bringing Au Bon Pain and Panera together again,” Shaich said in a statement.
The sale comes just months after Panera was sold to the investment firm JAB Holdings in a $7.5 billion deal, taking the chain private.
Au Bon Pain, much like Panera, is a fast-casual chain that serves sandwiches, breads, pastries, salads, soups and coffee. The chain primarily operates in urban office buildings, universities, transit centers, malls and museums.
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