Jimmy John Liautaud
Jimmy John Liautaud
|Education||Eastern Illinois University|
|Known for||Founder of Jimmy John's|
|Net worth||US$1.7 billion (October 2018)|
|Relatives||James P. Liautaud (Father)|
Family and early life
Liautaud was born in Arlington Heights, Illinois on January 12, 1964. His father is James Liautaud, longtime entrepreneur, and his mother is Gina Gudaityte Liautaud. He was born the second of four siblings, with brothers Greg and Robby Liautaud and a sister Lara Liautaud Berry. He attended high school at Elgin Academy, a private prep school in Elgin, Illinois, where he became close with and was influenced by the dean, James Lyons.
After Liautaud graduated from high school in 1982, his father offered him a loan of $25,000 to open a business on the condition that if the business failed, he would enlist in the US Army. Although his father wanted him to enlist, he agreed to loan the money in exchange for a 48% stake in the business. Initially Jimmy John wanted to open a hot dog stand, but after visiting numerous such stands throughout the summer of 1982, he realized the $25,000 would not be enough for such a venture. After a chance encounter at a sandwich shop, Jimmy John realized that he could open a sandwich shop within his available budget by purchasing premium meats at a neighborhood market and baking his own bread. With the help of his family as tasters, he decided to put four sandwiches on his original menu. On January 13, 1983 Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches opened in Charleston, Illinois. Due to the poor location of his first store, Liautaud decided to include delivery of his sandwiches to boost sales. He began by bringing samples door-to-door to the nearby Eastern Illinois University dorms. By the end of his first year, the restaurant started making a profit. At the end of his second year, Liautaud was able to purchase his father's share in the business and he became sole owner. The business continued to grow, and he was able to open his second and third shops in 1986 and 1987.
In 1988, Liautaud met businessman Jamie Coulter. At the time, Coulter was a Pizza Hut Franchisee, and later founded and ran Lone Star Steakhouse and Saloon and other chains. Coulter helped Liautaud take his business to the next level. In 1994 he sold his first Jimmy John's franchise, in addition to the 10 stores owned by Liautaud himself.
By 2002, the company had about 200 stores, 10% of which were corporate stores that Liautaud oversaw himself. Sales at the stores managed by Liautaud were outpacing the franchised stores by a wide margin. Together with his partner, and now President & CEO, James North, he visited 70 of the poorest-performing stores. After 18 months of getting the stores “back to basics” and instilling in them “some of that initial spark”, he was able to help the stores become more profitable.
In January 2007, Liautaud selected Weston Presidio, a private-equity firm, to help acquire better locations for the expanding company. Weston Presidio bought a 33% stake in the company, and during the first year closed on over 100 real estate deals.
In September 2016, Roark Capital Group agreed to purchase a majority stake in Liautaud's company, as Weston Presidio sold their minority investment after 10 years. Terms of the transaction were not immediately disclosed, though it was later clarified that Liautaud retained 35% ownership of the company as part of the deal. As part of the agreement, Liautaud, as the company's founder and largest individual shareholder, continued as chairman of the board.
In his 2018 book, Dick Portillo of Portillo's Restaurants called Liautaud his "good friend" and relayed that Liautaud tried to buy Portillo's before it was ultimately sold to Berkshire Partners.
In September 2019, Roark's Inspire Brands announced it was acquiring Jimmy John's for an unspecified amount in a deal unanimously approved by Liautaud and the rest of the Jimmy John's Board of Directors. At the close of the deal, Liautaud said that he will step down as chairman of the company and transition to become an adviser to the brand. The acquisition was completed on October 18.
In 2008, Liautaud donated $1 million to his high school, Elgin Academy, on the condition that the building constructed using his donation bear not only his name, but also the name of the man who had been the dean of the school when Liautaud attended: James Lyons.
In July 2014, Liautaud donated $1 million to the Folds of Honor Foundation, an organization that supports the spouses and children of America's fallen and disabled service-members.
In 2017, Liautaud and his wife, Leslie, donated $2 million to help Brewster Academy kick off the fundraising for their new residence hall to house 22 students and 4 faculty residences. In May 2018, the new residence opened, and is called "Toad Hall" after a common mispronunciation of the family's last name.
In January 2019, Camp Southern Ground, a non-profit summer camp founded by musician Zac Brown, announced that the Liautauds had donated over $3.2 million to date to help build the camp's first residential lodge and fund ongoing operations. In non-summer months, the camp's facilities are used to support military veterans and their families transitioning back to civilian life.
The Liautaud Family Foundation directed $1.291 million to the Horatio Alger Association to support scholarships for underprivileged students in 2019.
The Liautauds donated $1 million to Chicago's Youth Guidance Becoming a Man program, which helps disadvantaged young men learn how to handle tough life challenges and give them the tools to succeed in the future.
Other causes supported by the Liautauds include: the Frances Nelson Smile Healthy Dental Clinic, the Kickapoo Rail Trail, Crisis Nursery in Urbana, Illinois, Champaign County's Youth Assessment Center, Champaign Unit 4 schools, Christmas layaway purchases, the American Heart Association, the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine, MD Anderson, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, the Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, the Goodman Theater, and the Detroit Symphony.
Liautaud is a member of the University of Illinois at Chicago's Chicago Area Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame.
In 2003, he was named to Chicago's “40 Under 40” by Crain's Chicago Business.
In 2004, he was named the Ernst & Young Food & Beverage Entrepreneur of the Year in Illinois. The winners were selected by an independent panel of judges composed of local community and business leaders. In the same year, he was given the Lifetime Achievement Award at the National CEO Conference and inducted into the Collegiate Entrepreneurs' Organization Hall of Fame.
In 2007, Liautaud delivered the commencement speech at his alma mater, now known as the Liautaud-Lyons Upper School, a program of Elgin Academy.
In 2012, Liautaud was awarded the Nation's Restaurant News Golden Chain award for outstanding accomplishments that have benefited consumers in the food industry.
In March 2017, he was named Franchise Times' "Dealmaker of the Year" for the deal that brought Roark Capital Group in as the company's new majority owner. Beth Ewen, FT's editor-in-chief called the deal "one of the best private equity deals of all time in the restaurant business." In December of that year, Liautaud was chosen to receive the Horatio Alger Award for 2018. The Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans recognizes people who have overcome personal challenges to achieve personal and professional success.
Liautaud is an avid hunter and fisherman. In an interview in 2015 with the Chicago Tribune, Liautaud said that the largest misconception about him is that people still connect him to photos of him posing with big game from 10 years ago. According to Liautaud, he used to hunt big game in Africa on legally organized safaris, but he no longer does. Starting in 2015, his hunting prompted people to call for a boycott of his business.
Liautaud is married to Leslie Liautaud and has three children, Spencer, Lucy, and Fred. Liautaud is an investor in wines and vineyards, at least one of which has been featured on the cover of Wine Spectator. He also owns thousands of acres of farmland in Central Illinois.
Liautaud also owns a superyacht named ROCK.IT, a 198-foot ship built with his input by Feadship in 2014. The ship, which can accommodate ten guests with a crew of 13, has been a finalist for a few yacht awards and been featured in a number of industry publications.
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- Portillo, Dick (27 November 2018). Out of the Dog House. Triumph Books. p. 239. ISBN 9781641252478.
- "Inspire Brands to Acquire Jimmy John's". Inspire Brands. 25 September 2019. Retrieved 9 October 2019.
- Haddon, Heather (25 September 2019). "Arby's Parent to Acquire Jimmy John's". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 9 October 2019.
- Ruggless, Ron (18 October 2019). "Inspire completes purchase of Jimmy John's". Nation's Restaurant News. Retrieved 21 October 2019.
- "Liautauds pledge $1 million to new Champaign County Y". The News-Gazette (Champaign–Urbana). 23 June 2011. Retrieved 9 November 2017.
- Staff Reports (30 July 2014). "Jimmy John's to donate $1 million to Owasso-based Folds of Honor". Tulsa World. Retrieved 2 June 2016.
- Braiterman, Lisa (4 August 2017). "New Residence Hall Underway". Brewster Academy. Retrieved 9 November 2017.
- "Brewster Academy Opens Toad Hall Following Gift from Leslie and Jimmy John Liautaud". Brewster Academy. 13 June 2018. Retrieved 9 January 2019.
- "Zac Brown's Camp Southern Ground Receives $2.2 Million Donation From Jimmy John's Owner, Jimmy John Liautaud". Camp Southern Ground. 22 January 2019. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
- Adeniji, Ade (4 December 2019). "Sandwich Chain Billionaire Jimmy John Liautaud and His Family Get More Strategic About Their Giving". Inside Philanthropy. Retrieved 15 January 2020.
- "Liautaud Family Gives $5 Million to Establish UIC Graduate Business School". University of Illinois at Chicago. 14 November 2003. Retrieved 15 January 2020.
- "Youth Guidance Expands Becoming A Man Program To Reach 4,000 At-Risk Chicago Males". Youth Guidance. 6 October 2016. Retrieved 15 January 2020.
- Pressey, Debra (8 April 2013). "Liautaud donates $300,000 to benefit Frances Nelson". The News-Gazette (Champaign–Urbana). Retrieved 2 June 2016.
- "Jimmy John's owner gives $150,000 to Illinois trail project". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. 3 July 2016. Retrieved 8 September 2016.
- "Jimmy John Liautaud & the Liautaud Family Foundation". Crisis Nursery. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
- Wickman, Natalie (11 January 2018). "Youth Assessment Center to settle on new site by spring". The News-Gazette (Champaign-Urbana). Retrieved 14 February 2018.
- Jones, Lyndsay (22 January 2018). "Students, staff are 'totally pumped' about planned projects". The News-Gazette (Champaign-Urbana). Retrieved 14 February 2018.
- Jensen, Jennifer (10 December 2018). "$80,000 in layaways paid by generous donation". WCIA. Retrieved 12 December 2018.
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- Nation's Restaurant News Staff Writer (9 July 2012). "Meet the 2012 Golden Chain Award winners". The Daily Meal. Retrieved 2 June 2016.
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- "Owner, Founder & Chairman of Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches, Jimmy John Liautaud, to Receive 2018 Horatio Alger Award". Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans. 5 December 2017. Retrieved 24 December 2017.
- Pressey, Debra (15 December 2017). "Jimmy John Liautaud part of Horatio Alger Association's Class of 2018". The News-Gazette (Champaign-Urbana). Retrieved 24 December 2017.
- ADMINISTRATOR, JEAN SERUM | NORTHWOOD SCHOOL. "Sandwich mogul 'Jimmy John' shares advice with Northwood students". APG of Wisconsin. Retrieved 2019-06-25.
- "Growth, Scaling, and Life Lessons from Jimmy John Liautaud, Founder, Owner & Chairman of Jimmy John's | Inside Kellogg". blogs.kellogg.northwestern.edu. Retrieved 2019-06-25.
- "Jimmy John brings his story of sandwich franchise success to Notre Dame - Notre Dame Business". Mendoza College of Business. Retrieved 2019-06-25.
- "Jimmy John Liautaud Shares His Story with EMBA Students in Miami". blogs.kellogg.northwestern.edu. Retrieved 2019-06-25.
- "Start and Grow Your Business: Guest Speaker Jimmy John Liautaud". champaign.org. Retrieved 2019-06-25.
- "Community Involvement". Fox Companies. 2014-07-25. Retrieved 2019-06-25.
- Rizzo, Lillian (5 Aug 2015). "Jimmy John's Faces Boycott Call Over Founder's Trophy Hunting". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 28 October 2016.
- Editors (12 October 2011). "Chambana Mom to Know: Leslie Liautaud Chambana Mom to Know: Leslie Liautaud". chambanamoms.com. Retrieved 2 June 2016.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)[unreliable source?]
- Ewen, Beth (March 22, 2017). "How Jimmy John's landed FT's deal of the year". Franchise Times. Retrieved April 2, 2017.
- McKinstry, Erin (23 April 2018). "As generations age, farm owners less connected to their land". Columbia Missourian. Retrieved 30 April 2018.
- Robinson, Larry (4 October 2016). "Jimmy John's $100 million yacht visits Ogdensburg". Watertown Daily Times. Retrieved 20 November 2018.
- Bednarova, Zuzana (3 February 2015). "World Superyacht Awards 2015 Finalists". CharterWorld.com. Boat International Media. Retrieved 20 November 2018.
- "Finalists announced for the ShowBoats Design Awards 2016". Boat International Media. Retrieved 20 November 2018.
- Mower, Marilyn (25 February 2016). "Rock.It — the hip, modern Feadship yacht with a touch of class". Boat International Media. Retrieved 20 November 2018.
- "From sandwiches to superyachts: Inside Jimmy John's 197' Feadship". ShowBoats International. Boat International Media. 6 March 2016. pp. 104–114. Retrieved 20 November 2018.
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