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Roark Buys Majority Stake in Jimmy John's


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Jimmy John's is getting plenty of capital access—without jumping into an ugly stock market—with a new majority stake.

Ending the rumors about who might buy into one of the most aggressive sandwich growth brands, Roark Capital has taken a majority stake in Jimmy John's.

According to Top 200 data, Jimmy John's pulled in more than $1.9 billion in 2015 at its 2,400 locations. That’s another year of strong, double-digit growth in both units and sales. It also puts the company’s yearly performance close to the $2.3 billion valuation it sought in 2014 when it shopped for big investors, ultimately failing to attract high enough offers.

It then looked into an IPO during the high-flying market of 2014, but Jimmy John Liautaud said he was thankful they didn’t push to go public.

“I look at all the options all the time and bottom line it was an intoxicating market,” said founder Liautaud, who said he opted not to open up the company and his personal life to investors. “Right now, I feel really lucky because it’s a tough market right now.”

This new option means the exit of Weston Presidio, which announced in June it was looking to sell off its 30% stake in the brand after 10 years. Rumors also said Liautaud was looking to divest 10-15%. Whether or not he unloaded anything is unknown, but according to a press release from the company he remains the largest individual shareholder.

Despite the shopping and pondering the IPO, Liautaud made it sound like Roark was in the mix all along.

“I’ve spent two years getting to know the Roark team. They are best-in-class people that have the knowledge and expertise that will help us take this brand to the next level,” Liautaud said in the release.

Operations will continue as they have under Liautaud, and day-to-day operations remain under president and CEO James North.

“Jimmy has built an amazing business with unlimited potential,” said Neal Aronson, managing partner of Roark. “It’s a testament to his vision, commitment to quality, and the team’s outstanding execution. We are thrilled to be a part of this iconic brand and look forward to supporting its continued growth.”

Roark has now acquired 56 franchised and multi-unit concepts that bring in $23 billion in revenue across 25,000 locations worldwide. Restaurant brands under the Roark umbrella include Arby’s, Auntie Anne’s, Corner Bakery, McAlister’s Deli, Schlotzsky’s Bakery Café, Naf Naf Grill and Wingstop.

Dave Jacquin and the North Point Advisors team served as Jimmy John's exclusive financial advisor. 

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Mary Jo LarsonMary Jo Larson is the publisher of Franchise Times Magazine and the Restaurant Finance Monitor.  You can find her on Twitter at
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Nancy WeingartnerNancy Weingartner is editor-at-large of Franchise Times magazine and the editor of the Food On Demand media project. You can reach her at 612-767-3200 or at nancyw@franchisetimes.com.
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