Jimmy John Liautaud: From Humble Beginnings to Billionaire

by Evan

Jimmy John Liautaud is the epitome of an American success story. He was born in Arlington Heights, Illinois, in 1964. As one of four children, he struggled during his early years due to his family’s financial problems. Liautaud didn’t have it easy as a young person. He was teased for his weight, and his father’s financial problems added to the stress of his childhood. 

Liautaud didn’t let life’s difficulties slow him down though. After graduating from high school, he took college courses at Eastern Illinois University but left to follow his dreams of entrepreneurship. As an alternative to being a college drop out, his father made him a deal: he made him on a loan of $25,000 to open a business. The deal was that Liautaud had a single year to start a successful business, but he would have to join the Army if it failed. Liautaud’s father never expected his business to grow as it did. His investment of $25,000 would grow beyond his wildest dreams, thanks to his son’s innate business sense.

Everybody knows Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches, even if they don’t eat there. There are die-hard Jimmy John’s fans that swear by the great food, service and delivery option. The sandwich shop had humble beginnings, and it all started with his father’s $25,000 investment. Jimmy John Liautaud initially had the idea to open a hot dog stand, but realized it wasn’t financially possible with the money he had. His keen sensibilities made him realize that a sandwich shop catering to college students would be lucrative. Working his magic out of a refurbished garage, Liautaud built his empire as the king of gourmet sandwiches. 

Liautaud worked more hours of the day than most people and learned the basics of business as he went. He taught himself how to make and keep the profits, splitting them with his father as the sole investor. As his profits grew, he opened a second shop and the rest is history. By focusing on making good, affordable food, offering cheap delivery options and creating enticing marketing campaigns, Jimmy John’s has grown exponentially over the years.

He sold a portion of the business in 2005 to Weston Presidio and spent the next nine years struggling to manage the huge company that Jimmy John’s had become. Realizing the job of running his company on his own was too much, he appointed James North as the new CEO. Weston Presidio wanted to liquidate its share at that time, and after many bids from other investment companies, Roark Capital Group bought out Weston for 16 times what they had initially purchased their share for. 

Everyone profited from Roark’s deal; several of the original employees of Jimmy John’s gained huge returns, and Liautaud sold half of his shares. Now he no longer has the stress of the daily management of his restaurant, which is left in the capable hands of Roark Capital. The investment company has been making changes to how data is captured and tracked, in order to stay competitive in the fast-food industry. For now, Liautaud is happy to be responsible for the culture and food of his restaurant, which is what made it successful in the first place.

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