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Jimmy John's looks for a buyer

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Jimmy John’s is shopping for an investor to purchase as much as a 45% stake in the sandwich-shop franchisor, which has set a price that would value the operation at $2.3 billion, Reuters reported last night, citing anonymous sources.

The stake would consist of the 30% interest currently held by Weston Presidio, a private-equity firm, and a portion of the majority control held by the chain’s founder and CEO, Jimmy John Liautaud. Reuters reported that Liautaud is considering the sale of 10% to 15% of the company he founded in 1983, and could be willing to sell a larger stake, giving the buyer control of the company, if he was comfortable with the prospective investor.

The report is the latest indication that Liautaud intends to pare his 70% interest in the company he founded to appease his father. Last summer, he considered an initial public stock offering, but bagged the idea after further contemplation. That exit would have valued the company at about $2 billion.

Reuters said Liautaud and Weston Presidio, his partner since 2007, considered selling a major stake in the chain in 2014, but could not find a buyer they regarded as suitable.

Jimmy John’s is the largest chain in the fast-casual segment, with about 2,450 restaurants, most of which are franchised. It was recently sued by the attorney general of Illinois for requiring employees at all pay levels to sign non-compete agreements.

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