Roark’s Inspire Brands to acquire Jimmy John’s amid a fast-food boom for PE

In bold red and black type, the Jimmy John’s[1] website proudly proclaims: “We’re freaky fast so your sandwich arrives freaky fresh.”That zesty tagline, or perhaps a robust fast-food industry, has proved irresistible to ravenous private equity buyers.  

On Wednesday, private equity-backed Inspire Brands[2] announced an agreement to acquire the sandwich slinger for an undisclosed sum. The acquisition will make Inspire Brands—which also owns Arby’s, Sonic Drive-In[3], Rusty Taco[4] and Buffalo Wild Wings[5]—the fourth-largest restaurant company in the US, per a press release announcing the deal, taking its annual system sales to $14 billion and expanding its total footprint from about 8,300 restaurants to 11,200.  

While Jimmy John’s is officially changing hands, it will remain under the ultimate control of Roark Capital Group[6], which is both the current owner of Jimmy John’s and the creator of Inspire Brands. In 2016, Roark acquired a majority stake in Jimmy John’s in a deal worth $2.3 billion, with Boston-based private equity firm Weston Presidio[7] exiting a minority stake it had held for nearly a decade. Two years later, in 2018, Roark formed Inspire Brands following the $2.9 billion acquisition of Buffalo Wild Wings by Arby’s, one of the firm’s existing portfolio companies. . 

In a way, Roark just agreed to buy what it already owns. 

Jimmy John’s traces its origins back to a converted garage near the Eastern Illinois University campus. It was there, in 1983, where founder Jimmy John Liautaud began his now-ubiquitous sandwich business, which has since expand its quick-delivery model to over 2,800 franchises. 

That franchise structure is surely part of the company’s appeal to Roark, which predominantly invests in consumer-facing companies in the restaurant and retail spheres. Roark has a special appetite for franchise models[8]; firm founder Neal Aronson co-founded US Franchise Systems[9], a hotel brands operator, before opting for a private equity career.

1 2 3 4