Jimmy John's sold to Arby's owner, CEO to step down

Jimmy John's, the gourmet sandwich shop that promises "freaky fast" delivery, has been acquired by Inspire Brands, the owner of several fast food chains including Arby's and Buffalo Wild Wings, the company announced Wednesday.

Terms of the acquisition were not announced.

Jimmy John's founder and chairman, Cary native and Elgin Academy graduate Jimmy John Liautaud, will step down from the company, to be replaced by James North, according to Inspire CEO and co-founder Paul Brown. The transaction is expected to be complete at the end of October.

Atlanta-based Inspire Brands' portfolio includes more than 8,300 Arby's, Buffalo Wild Wings, Sonic Drive-In and Rusty Taco locations around the world. It is a division of capital investment firm Roark Capital, which acquired a majority stake in Jimmy John's in 2016.

With the acquisition of the Jimmy John's brand, the company said it will become the fourth-largest restaurant company in the U.S., with more than $14 billion in annual system sales and more than 11,200 restaurants across 16 countries.

"Jimmy John's is a great fit for the Inspire family," Inspire's Brown said. "We are excited to welcome the Jimmy John's brand to Inspire and look forward to working with their team and franchisees to help the company achieve its next stage of growth."

Liautaud, who started Jimmy John's in Charleston in 1983 and grew the restaurant into a national chain with more than 2,800 locations in 43 states, said the brand has "an ideal home" at Inspire.

"Inspire's long-term approach, culture of innovation and commitment to helping brands grow sets it apart from the rest," he said. "I couldn't be prouder of the company we've built, and I can't wait to see what Jimmy John's is able to accomplish under Inspire's leadership."

Although Liautaud was successful in growing the chain nationally and led philanthropic efforts, his public image was tainted when pictures of him hunting in Africa went public and led to a call to boycott the chain in 2015. Liautaud told the Chicago Tribune in 2015 that while he enjoys hunting and fishing, he no longer hunts big game.

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