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Two fast-casual restaurant brands reunited in acquisition

Panera Bread is buying a brand it once owned. And it's also getting a new CEO.

Panera Bread has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Au Bon Pain Holding Co. Inc., parent company of Au Bon Pain., for an undisclosed sum. In related news, Ron Shaich, Panera’s chairman and CEO, announced he will step down step down as CEO effective Jan. 1, but will remain chairman. He will be succeeded by Blaine Hurst, president of Panera.

The acquisition will bring Au Bon Pain and Panera together again. Shaich and his late partner 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. In 1999, the company sold Au Bon Pain to focus all its resources on Panera.

Panera operates 2,050 bakery-cafes in 46 states and in Ontario, Canada, operating under the Panera Bread, Saint Louis Bread Co. or Paradise Bakery & Cafe names. It was acquired in July 2017 by JAB Holding, which also owns Krispy Kreme Doughnuts and Peet’s Coffee & Tea.

Au Bon Pain has 304 locations worldwide. It will be part of Panera’s initiative to intensify growth in new real estate channels, including hospitals, colleges and transportation centers, and urban locations.

Terms of the transaction, expected to close during the fourth quarter, were not disclosed.
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