Ron Shaich, the founder of Panera Bread, is stepping down as its CEO after fewer than five months since the bakery-cafe chain was sold to private equity firm JAB Holdings for $7.5 billion.
Shaich will leave the CEO post beginning Jan. 1, 2018. He will stay on as executive chairman at Panera Bread, which also announced Wednesday plans to buy competitor Au Bon Pain. Leaving the CEO position will allow Shaich to better allocate his time between Panera, initiatives for JAB, and his personal investments and interests, the company said Wednesday.
“This is the right time for me to step down as CEO while still staying involved in the business as chairman,” Shaich said in a statement. “I returned in 2011 because our growth was slowing and we needed to reposition Panera as a better competitive alternative with expanded growth opportunities. And I’m happy to say we’ve done just that.”
Blaine Hurst, president of Panera, is taking over the CEO post.
Shaich will also pursue personal causes with “particular focus on working to reduce the pervasive short-term thinking in capital markets and national debate,” according to the announcement.
Shaich told Fortune in April when when JAB’s acquisition of Panera was first announced that the decision to sell the bakery cafe for $7.5 billion is “bittersweet.” Shaich created Au Bon Pain Co. in 1981 with his late partner Louis Kane. The company went public in 1991. Two years later, after acquiring Saint Louis Bread Company, they changed the named to Panera. Au Bon Pain stores were sold in 1999 so the company could focus its resources on scaling up Panera.
JAB has snapped up a number of consumer brands in the past five years including Keurig Green Mountain, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, and Peet’s Coffee & Tea.