The Brilliant Move by Jimmy John Liautaud to Share the Leadership of Jimmy John’s

Jimmy John Liautaud will go down in history as one of the most successful business people in the food and restaurant industry. This is after starting and running Jimmy John’s, a reputable sandwich company in the U.S., successfully. The enterprise, headquartered in Champaign, Illinois, was founded in 1983 when Liautaud finished his high school education. He had done poorly on his exams, so the only employment option that he had was to join the military. However, this was not his passion. He felt that despite failing in his academics, he still had a lot more that he wanted to do with his life.

Luckily, Liautaud’s father had started a business a while earlier, which had peaked at the moment his son was leaving school. They entered an agreement such that he would lend Liautaud some money to establish a business. However, it was on the condition that if the business never performed properly within the first year, he would wind it up and join the military. This was a bit strict for Liautaud, but he had to grab the opportunity with agility. His father lent him $25,000 and went straight to the drawing board. His first thought was about starting a hotdog stand. He then realized that the money was not enough to start that big. Alternatively, he decided to start a sandwich shop near Eastern Illinois University. In this location, he would leverage the massive number of students, hence making substantial sales and profit. He would move the extra mile to deliver the hotdogs and sandwiches to the students in their dormitories.

During the launching of the shop, which he named Jimmy John’s, Liautaud and his father agreed that they would share the ownership of the enterprise. Liautaud would own 52 percent of the shares while his father would own 48 percent. This meant that the restaurant had to make significant sales for Liautaud to realize reasonable profits, and also for sustainability. Fortunately, the first year turned out to be very fruitful for the business. He made more than $40,000 in profit, which they shared proportionally with the father. The following year, the company experienced an increase in profit. This informed the decision by Liautaud to buy out his father’s shares in the business to allow him full ownership of the enterprise.

In 1994, Jimmy John’s had experienced tremendous progress, with the owner establishing several other outlets in Illinois. One of them was in Champaign, where the headquarters of the whole enterprise is located today. After realizing that the company was growing at breakneck speed, Liautaud decided to partner with other investors, who could assist him in managing the growth of the enterprise. He brought on board Weston Presidio, a Boston-based private equity firm, which bought 28 percent of Jimmy John’s shares in the business. That was in 2007.

During the six years that followed, the business operations at Jimmy John’s were seamless until 2014. The growth of the company started becoming uncontrollable. Both Liautaud and Weston were unable to manage the business effectively, and its sales continually declined. This led to the decision of Liautaud to sell more than half of his shares to Roark, a private equity firm led by Aronson. This was a brilliant move that saw him step down from the CEO position to let the new partner run the daily operations of the business. However, Liautaud remains the chairman of Jimmy John’s but having delegated most of the decision-making roles to Roark.

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