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

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.

Last year, Roark added Sonic to the Inspire Brands portfolio in a $2.3 billion deal, and a month later, the Atlanta-based firm raised a total of $6.5 billion for a new flagship fund and a related sidecar vehicle. Roark’s restaurant holdings also extend far beyond Inspire Brands. The firm paid $200 million for Jamba Juice[10] in 2018, and it has held stakes in Auntie Anne’s[11], Carvel[12] and Wingstop[13]

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