Panera Bread CEO Ron Shaich has created one hell of playbook on a how to achieve greatness in the restaurant industry and reward shareholders in the process.
And now, he is ready to take his message -- one rooted in long-term investing -- to wage a war with short-term minded activist investors.
The JAB Holdings owned salad and sandwich chain said Wednesday that Shaich, 63, will step aside as CEO on January 1, 2018 while remaining on the board. Replacing Shaich will be restaurant industry veteran Blaine Hurst, who before joining Panera Bread as president in 2010 had executive level stints at Papa John's (PZZA) and Boston Chicken. It was also announced that JAB Holdings will acquire 304 store sandwich chain Au Bon Pain.
"I have a limited time in life, and there is a limited time in a day -- I would like to pursue some of my personal interests in addition to Panera," Shaich told TheStreet in an interview. One of those interests is in getting the word out on the importance of long-term investing if a public company wants to truly win and create shareholder value.
Shaich says investing has become too short-term focused, in large part to the rise of activists and the overall trading environment. "Are activists really good for the economy? I think they inhibit GDP growth," Shaich explained.
Panera Bread found itself in the crosshairs of activists twice: in 2007 with Shamrock Activist Value Fund LP and in 2015 with Luxor Capital, Fortune reported. The latter battle led Panera to issue $500 million in new debt to buy back shares to appease Luxor.
To be sure, Shaich is coming to war with an impressive resume.
At age 27 and a only few years removed from Harvard Business School, Shaich (pronounced 'shake') opened a cookie store in Boston called the Cookie Jar in 1980. Ever the people watcher, Shaich began ordering baguettes and croissants for his store from a nearby Au Bon Pain after observing that many folks weren't buying cookies before noon.