Peter Buck, who helped found Subway, has died

The chain’s c-founder loaned Fred DeLuca $1,000 to start a sub shop in 1965 that would later become the world's largest restaurant chain by unit count. He was 90.
Peter buck obit
Photo courtesy of Subway

Peter Buck, a nuclear physicist whose $1,000 loan to a family friend led to the creation of the Subway sandwich franchise, has died. He was 90.

It was Buck who convinced Fred DeLuca, a family friend, to open a sub shop with the loan. The shop was initially named after Buck, called Pete’s Super Submarines. The name was eventually changed to Pete’s Subway and then just Subway.

The company then used an aggressive franchising strategy to become the largest restaurant in the world by unit count, with nearly 40,000 locations worldwide.

Buck was born Dec. 19, 1930, in South Portland, Maine, graduated from Bowdoin College and later earned a master’s and a doctoral degree in physics from Columbia University.

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of one of Subway’s founders, Dr. Peter Buck,” Subway CEO John Chidsey said in a statement. “He was a shining example of a dedicated, hands-on leader, and an integral member of the Subway family.

“Dr. Buck’s devotion to Subway, and his vision for the brand, helped grow it from a singular sandwich shop in Bridgeport, Conn., to the world’s largest restaurant brand. We are forever grateful for his countless contributions and I speak on behalf of all of us at Subway when I say that we will honor his legacy as we continue to build this incredible brand.”

DeLuca died from leukemia in 2015. The company in the years since has been marked by declining unit count and fights with franchisees.

Yet the success of Subway made Buck wealthy. The company is privately held and highly profitable thanks to a business model that is fully franchised and reliant upon development agents to manage its thousands of franchisees. Forbes in 2015 estimated his worth to be $1.6 billion.

He used that wealth to apparently become one of the nation’s largest landowners. He owned some 1.2 million acres of timberland in Maine through his Tall Timbers Trust.

Buck and his late wife Carmen Lucia created the Peter and Carmen Lucia Buck Foundation to manage philanthropy. Buck supported the expansion of charter schools in Connecticut and New York and donated to Bowdoin College.

A patient tower at Danbury Hospital in Connecticut is named for Buck and Lucia.

Buck once donated a 23.10-carat ruby to the gem collection at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History. The ruby, named after Buck’s wife, was mined in Burma in the 1930s and is one of the largest-faceted Burmese rubies known to exist.

Buck is survived by sons Christopher and William, daughters-in-law April and Hara and grandchildren Sam, Emily, Oliver, Simon and James.

Members help make our journalism possible. Become a Restaurant Business member today and unlock exclusive benefits, including unlimited access to all of our content. Sign up here.


Exclusive Content


It's time to send 'ghost kitchen' to the graveyard

Tech Check: The catch-all term for delivery restaurants is no longer accurate. Let’s lay it to rest and come up with a new label.


Higher-end consumers may be slowing their spending

The Bottom Line: There is some evidence that higher-income consumers may be cutting back. Or maybe there was just some pent-up demand.


Wonder bets meal kits aren't dead yet

Tech Check: By acquiring the struggling Blue Apron, the restaurant delivery concept believes it can touch more dining occasions. But will it work?


More from our partners