Longtime driving force behind Panera, Pret A Manger and Krispy Kreme steps down

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

Olivier Goudet has been instrumental in turning JAB Holdings into the powerhouse it is today.
Olivier Goudet has been instrumental in turning JAB Holdings into the powerhouse it is today.

Related tags JAB Holdings Panera bread Pret a Manger Krispy kreme

Olivier Goudet, CEO of JAB Holding – the European investment firm that owns the mega bakery-café chains – is bowing out after nearly 12 years of spearheading major deals in the F&B, coffee and pet care sectors.

Goudet (59) is stepping down with immediate effect and is being replaced by Joachim Creus (47), who has worked with the group since 2010. Creus has also been designated as the successor to the group’s chair Peter Harf.

Goudet – a former Mars veteran – retains his role as a senior investment adviser to JAB – along with his substantial stakes in the company, however, his sudden departure from the top spot has left many bewildered as he had been the driving force behind the group’s aggressive investment approach.

“When I came to JAB, we were managing about $9bn and now that figure is more like $50bn,”​ Goudet told the Financial Times.

“Twelve years is a long time to stay in a role like this and Joachim is now taking over at roughly the same age I was when I started.”

He added, “I am keeping all my money invested with the firm and I will continue to advise. I’m not going anywhere.”

Creating a conglomerate

panera

Jacobs Douwe Egberts, Peet’s Coffee & Tea, Caribou Coffee Company, Mighty Leaf Tea, Coty, Bally and Jimmy Choo are just some of the brand names that were – at one stage or another - associated with JAB.

In 2016, the Luxembourg-headquartered investment giant reached an agreement to acquire US doughnut shop operator Krispy Kreme for $1.35bn.

A year later, it agreed to buy US-based Panera Bread for $7.5bn, with the view of taking the bakery-café chain private. In 2021, it merged Panera Bread, Caribou Coffee and Einstein Bros Bagels to create Panera Brands and first filed for an IPO the following November.

In 2018, JAB snapped up British sandwich and coffee shop chain Pret A Manger for £1.5bn​ ($2bn) as part of a global acquisition spree aimed at challenging Nestle in the coffee sector.

Pret a Manger

The firm, however, has been through some rough patches of late.

In 2018, shortly after being acquired by JAB, Pret A Manger was slapped with lawsuits alleging the breads it used in its to-go sandwiches were deceptively labelled and marketed as ‘natural’ when they actually tested positive for glyphosate.

In 2019, the company – which is 90% owned by the German billionaire Reimann family – was rocked over the revelations the family patriarch, Albert Reimann Sr, and his son Albert Reimann Jr, were committed Nazi supporters and even profited from forced labour during Hitler’s reign.

After revelations that Emilie Landecker, Albert Jr’s mistress and mother to several members of the family, was the daughter of Alfred Landecker, a Jew who was presumed to be transported to one of the extermination camps, the family foundation earmarked €25m ($27.2m) towards projects that honour the victims of the Holocaust.

Krispy Kreme doughnuts are being sued for fraud. iStock  KathyDewar

The same year, Goudet and Harf reportedly fell out with managing partner Bart Becht over the strategic direction of the group.

In 2020, US confectionery maker Mars sued JAB over claims a former Mars executive stole secret company documents – financial results, strategic planning documents and potential acquisition targets – and passed them to JAB execs. JAB denied the claims.

After more than four decades of expanding the wealth of the Reimann family, Harf (77), is also stepping down.

“Continuity of leadership is paramount at a firm like JAB,”​ said Harf.

“Over the past decade, not only has Joachim been instrumental to building an enduring investment firm, he has also become a member of the extended Reimann family.”

Added Creus, "It is a great privilege to be named CEO of JAB.

"Peter built JAB, implementing a long-term strategic vision to transform decades of successful development as a family office into an investment company focused on the global consumer goods and services sector. Then, for the past 12 years under Olivier’s leadership, we scaled JAB with the right assets, building a diverse and highly resilient investment portfolio which is ideally positioned to continue to deliver attractive risk adjusted returns over the long term."

As part of the shifts, Frank Engelen (52) joins as a managing partner of JAB.

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