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Panera Acquires Au Bon Pain and Robert Mercer Steps Down


Noun. A decent, upright, mature and responsible person.

Noun, slang. An awkward, clumsy, or unlucky person whose endeavors tend to fail. A loser.

Mensch of the Week:


Panera Bread will acquire Au Bon Pain Holding Co. and their 304 stores. The decision by Ron Shaich, the founder, chairman, and CEO, of Au Bon Pain, to bring the two chains back together has high hopes. The price of the acquisition has not been disclosed. As part of the deal to merge the two executive boards, Shaich has stepped down. He will be replaced by the new CEO, Blaine Hurst, on January 1, 2018. It is just one facet of the new plan to expand Panera stores to different real estate markets.

Au Bon Pain’s are typically seen in train stations and airports but the new plan is to reach a wider range of consumers like universities and hospitals. The two restaurants have similar menus featuring soups, salads, and sandwiches. Panera is a fast-casual dining experience with 2,040 stores within 46 states.  Au Bon Pain’s 304 locations offer grab and go options that work well in urban settings.

Shaich created Boston-based Au Bon Pain in 1981 and the company then went public in 1991. In 1993, Au Bon Pain bought a bakery and renamed it Panera, which then became their primary focus. Shaich sold Au Bon Pain in 1999 so he could devote his time to focusing on St. Louis-based Panera. Now he thinks it is the right time to bring the two companies together again.

It is refreshing to see a food chain doing well when so many food and clothing retailers are failing. Panera has been one of the best-performing publicly traded restaurant stocks in the last 20 years, delivering a total shareholder return up 86-fold from July 18, 1997, to July 18, 2017.  Their performance is largely attributed to their digital sales which make up 28% of all sales. Struggling restaurants should take notes from Panera.

Schlemiel of the Week:

Robert Mercer

Robert Mercer steps down from CEO of Renaissance Technologies LLC. The New York-based investment management fund is one of the most successful hedge funds in the world. However, Mercer’s political views and ties to Stephen Bannon have been hurting the companies recruitment efforts. Mercer is now doing everything in his power to remain out of the spotlight. Even denouncing views of people he once aligned himself with.

John Simons, the founder of RenTech, suggested Mercer step down because of his presence in the media and politics. Mercer is a strong supporter of  Breitbart, a far-right news outlet. However, in an attempt to take the spotlight off himself Mercer has sold his stakes in Breitbart to his daughters.

A former writer for Breitbart, Milo Yiannopoulus is an alt-right journalist who Mercer has funded in the past. After stepping down Mercer also cut ties with Milo saying he no longer supports his views. Activist groups began pressuring investors to pull out of RenTech due to their support for racist journalist and news outlets.

Former White House Strategist Steve Bannon is another controversial tie to Mercer. Bannon is the Executive Chairman of Breitbart and someone Mercer aligned with. Now Mercer is doing his best to get distance from the far-right Breitbart Chair saying,“I make my own decisions with respect to whom I support politically. Those decisions do not always align with Mr.Bannon’s”.

RenTech prides itself on its secrecy which then became impossible due to Mercer’s constant media presence. When business and politics meet in a political climate like today’s things can get messy. In terms of Mercer’s future after RenTech it is possible Mercer will pursue more political involvement with fewer ties to controversial members.

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