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Jimmy John Liautaud

James John Liautaud (January 12, 1964) is the founder, chairman, and majority owner of Jimmy John’s sandwich chain.[2]

Jimmy John Liautaud
Jimmy John's Owner Jimmy John Liautaud
Jimmy John's Owner Jimmy John Liautaud
BornJames John Liautaud
(1964-01-12) January 12, 1964 (age 54)
Arlington Heights, Illinois
OccupationOwner of Jimmy John's Franchise, LLC
Years active1983–present
Known forFounding Jimmy John's sandwich chain
Net worthUS$1.7 billion (October 2018)[1]
Spouse(s)Leslie Liautaud
Parent(s)James P. Liautaud Gina Gudaityte Liautaud

In October 2018, Liautaud was included in the Forbes list of the world's wealthiest people. At this time, Forbes estimated Liautaud's documented wealth at $1.7 billion.[1]


Family and early lifeEdit

Jimmy John Liautaud was born in Arlington Heights, Illinois on January 12, 1964.[3] His father is James Liautaud, longtime entrepreneur, and his mother is Gina Gudaityte Liautaud. He has two brothers, Greg and Robby Liautaud, and a sister, Lara Liautaud Berry. He was born the third of four siblings.[4] He attended Elgin Academy, a private prep school in Elgin, Illinois. During high school he became close with and was influenced by the dean of the academy, James Lyons.[5]

He was enrolled at Eastern Illinois University but left in order to grow his up-and-coming restaurant business.[6]

Restaurant careerEdit

After Liautaud graduated from high school in 1982, his father offered him a loan of $25,000 to open a business on the condition that when the business failed, he would enlist in the US Army.[5] Although his father wanted him to enlist, he agreed to loan him the money in exchange for a 48% stake in the business. Initially he wanted to open a hot dog stand, but after visiting numerous such stands throughout the summer of 1982, he realized that $25,000 would not be enough for such a venture.[7] After a chance encounter at a sandwich shop, Jimmy John realized that he could open a sandwich shop within his available budget by purchasing premium meats at a neighborhood market and baking his own bread. With the help of his family as tasters, he decided to put four types of sandwiches on his original menu. On January 13, 1983 Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches opened in Charleston, Illinois.[2][7] Due to the poor location of his first store, Liautaud decided to include delivery of his sandwiches to boost sales. He began by bringing samples door-to-door to the nearby Eastern Illinois University dorms.[6] By the end of his first year, the restaurant started making a profit. At the end of his second year, Liautaud was able to purchase his father’s share in the business and he became Jimmy John’s owner in full. The business continued to grow, and he was able to open his second and third shops in 1986 and 1987, respectively.

In 1988, Liautaud met businessman Jamie Coulter. At the time, Coulter was a Pizza Hut Franchisee, and later became the Chairman, Founder, and CEO of Lone Star Steakhouse and Saloon and other chains. Coulter helped Liautaud take his business to the next level. In 1994 he sold his first Jimmy John’s franchise.[7] When franchising began, Liautaud had 10 Jimmy John's stores.[8]

By 2002, the company had about 200 stores, 10% of which were corporate stores that the Jimmy John’s owner oversaw himself. Sales at the stores managed by Liautaud were outpacing the franchised stores by a wide margin. Together with his partner, and now Jimmy John’s President & CEO, James North, he visited 70 of the poorest-performing stores. After 18 months of getting the stores “back to basics” and instilling in them “some of that initial spark”, he was able to help the stores become more profitable.[6]

In January 2007, Liautaud selected Weston Presidio, a private-equity firm, to help acquire better locations for the expanding company. Weston Presidio bought a 33% stake in the company, and during the first year closed on over 100 real estate deals.[7]

In September 2016, Roark Capital Group agreed to purchase a majority stake in Liautaud's company, as Weston Presidio sold their minority investment after 10 years. Terms of the transaction were not immediately disclosed, though it was later clarified that Liautaud retained 35% ownership of the company as part of the deal.[9] As part of the agreement, Liautaud, as the company's founder and largest individual shareholder, will continue as chairman of the board.[10][11]


In 2008, Liautaud donated $1 million to his high school, Elgin Academy, on the condition that the building constructed using his donation bear not only his name, but also the name of the man who had been the dean of the school when Liautaud attended: James Lyons.[5]

Jimmy John Liautaud donating $1 million to Major Dan Rooney and Folds of Honor.

Beginning in 2011, Liautaud began donating to the Frances Nelson SmileHealthy dental clinic in Champaign, Illinois.[12]

In 2011, Liautaud and his wife pledged $1 million toward the construction of the new Champaign County YMCA.[13]

In July 2014, Liautaud donated $1 million to the Folds of Honor Foundation, an organization that supports the families of fallen soldiers.[14]

In July 2016, Liautaud and his wife Leslie donated $150,000 to help fund the first phase of construction for the Kickapoo Rail Trail, a 24.5-mile recreational trail between Urbana and the nearby St. Joseph.[15]

In December 2016, Liautaud and his wife Leslie established the Liautaud Family Foundation in order to make donations to a variety of charitable causes. The Foundation's first donation was $200,000 to fund a building expansion for Crisis Nursery, an emergency childcare facility for families in crisis.[16] In January 2018, Crisis Nursery announced that the Liautauds had made an additional matching grant offer of up to $100,000 to help cover an approximate $300,000 deficit from an unpaid state grant.[17]

In 2017, Liautaud and his wife partnered with Brewster Academy to kick off the fundraising for their new residence hall to house 22 students and 4 faculty residences.[18]

In December 2017, Liautaud and his wife donated $50,000 to cover the first 3 years of rent at a new location for Champaign County's Youth Assessment Center, a local juvenile diversion program.[19]

In January 2018, Liautaud donated over $45,000 to shore up health, wellness, and fine arts initiatives at several Champaign Unit 4 schools.[20]


Liautaud is a member of the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Chicago Area Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame.[21]

In 2003, he was named to Chicago’s “40 Under 40” by Crain’s Chicago Business.[22]

In 2004, he was named the Ernst & Young Food & Beverage Entrepreneur of the Year in Illinois. The winners were selected by an independent panel of judges composed of local community and business leaders.[23] In the same year, he was given the Lifetime Achievement Award at the National CEO Conference and inducted into the Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization Hall of Fame.[24]

In 2007, Liautaud delivered the commencement speech at his alma mater, now known as the Liautaud-Lyons Upper School, a program of Elgin Academy.[5]

In 2012, Liautaud was awarded the Nation’s Restaurant News Golden Chain award for outstanding accomplishments that have benefited consumers in the food industry.[25]

In March 2017, he was named Franchise Times' "Dealmaker of the Year" for the deal that brought Roark Capital Group in as the company's new majority owner. Beth Ewen, FT's editor-in-chief called the deal "one of the best private equity deals of all time in the restaurant business."[26] In December of that year, Liautaud was chosen to receive the Horatio Alger Award for 2018. The Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans recognizes people who have overcome personal challenges to achieve personal and professional success.[27][28]


Liautaud is an avid hunter and fisherman. In an interview in 2015 with the Chicago Tribune, Liautaud said that the largest misconception about him is that people still connect him to 10-year-old photos of him posing with big game. According to Liautaud, he used to hunt big game in Africa on legally organized safaris, but he no longer does.[6] In 2015, his hunting prompted people to call for a boycott of his business.[29]

Personal lifeEdit

Liautaud is married to dancer, playwright, actress, and choreographer Leslie Liautaud and has three children, Spencer, Lucy, and Fred.[7][30] Liautaud is an investor in wines and vineyards, at least one of which has been featured on the cover of Wine Spectator.[31] He also owns thousands of acres of farmland in Central Illinois.[32]


  1. ^ a b "Jimmy John Liautaud". Forbes. Retrieved 28 October 2018.
  2. ^ a b Giammona, Craig (1 December 2015). "Jimmy John's Founder Abandons IPO, Saying He's Not a Wall Street Guy". Bloomberg. Retrieved 2 June 2016.
  3. ^ "Jimmy John Liautaud". NNDB. Retrieved 2 June 2016.
  4. ^ Kapos, Shia (31 October 2015). "Father of Jimmy John's owner dies, helped found business". Chicago Business. Retrieved 2 June 2016.
  5. ^ a b c d Johnson, Dirk (30 December 2008). "Troublesome Student Makes Good, and Honors Disciplinarian". New York Times. Retrieved 2 June 2016.
  6. ^ a b c d Bomkamp, Samantha (3 November 2015). "Jimmy John's founder opens up on expansion, big game hunting, possible IPO". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2 June 2016.
  7. ^ a b c d e Casey, Erin (4 March 2009). "Success Stories: Jimmy John Liautaud". Success. Retrieved 2 June 2016.
  8. ^ Wohl, Jessica (3 November 2015). "Sub Shop Owner Jimmy John Weighs IPO but Isn't Sure He Has the Stomach for It". Advertising Age. Retrieved 8 September 2016.
  9. ^ Frost, Peter (21 January 2017). "Jimmy John Talks". Crain's Chicago Business. Retrieved 29 January 2017.
  10. ^ Hufford, Austen (8 September 2016). "Roark Capital Buys Majority Stake in Jimmy John's". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 11 September 2016.
  11. ^ Frost, Peter (8 September 2016). "Arby's owner buys Jimmy John's majority stake". Crain's Chicago Business. Retrieved 15 September 2016.
  12. ^ Pressey, Debra (8 April 2013). "Liautaud donates $300,000 to benefit Frances Nelson". News-Gazette. Retrieved 2 June 2016.
  13. ^ "Liautauds pledge $1 million to new Champaign County Y". The News-Gazette (Champaign-Urbana). 23 June 2011. Retrieved 9 November 2017.
  14. ^ Staff Reports (30 July 2014). "Jimmy John's to donate $1 million to Owasso-based Folds of Honor". Owasso Reporter. Tulsa World. Retrieved 2 June 2016.
  15. ^ "Jimmy John's owner gives $150,000 to Illinois trail project". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. 3 July 2016. Retrieved 8 September 2016.
  16. ^ "Crisis Nursery Receives $200,000 Donation from Liautaud Family Foundation". Crisis Nursery. 24 January 2017. Retrieved 3 February 2017.
  17. ^ "Crisis Nursery receives $100,000 matching gift donation from Jimmy John's owner, Jimmy John Liautaud". Crisis Nursery. 9 January 2018. Retrieved 14 February 2018.
  18. ^ Braiterman, Lisa (4 August 2017). "New Residence Hall Underway". Brewster Academy. Retrieved 9 November 2017.
  19. ^ Wickman, Natalie (11 January 2018). "Youth Assessment Center to settle on new site by spring". The News-Gazette (Champaign-Urbana). Retrieved 14 February 2018.
  20. ^ Jones, Lyndsay (22 January 2018). "Students, staff are 'totally pumped' about planned projects". The News-Gazette (Champaign-Urbana). Retrieved 14 February 2018.
  21. ^ "2015 Chicago Area Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame Inductees". Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies. Retrieved 2 June 2016.
  22. ^ "JIMMY JOHN LIAUTAUD, Founder, chairman and CEO Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwich Shops". CRAIN'S. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  23. ^ "Illinois Entrepreneurs Named Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2004 Award Winners" (PDF). Ernst & Young LLP. Retrieved 2 June 2016.
  24. ^ ""Jimmy John" in CEO Hall of Fame". QSR Magazine. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  25. ^ Nation's Restaurant News Staff Writer (9 July 2012). "Meet the 2012 Golden Chain Award winners". The Daily Meal. Retrieved 2 June 2016.
  26. ^ Lazare, Lewis (15 March 2017). "Jimmy John's founder hailed as king of the dealmakers". Chicago Business Journal. Retrieved 22 March 2017.
  27. ^ "Owner, Founder & Chairman of Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches, Jimmy John Liautaud, to Receive 2018 Horatio Alger Award". Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans. 5 December 2017. Retrieved 24 December 2017.
  28. ^ Pressey, Debra (15 December 2017). "Jimmy John Liautaud part of Horatio Alger Association's Class of 2018". The News-Gazette (Champaign-Urbana). Retrieved 24 December 2017.
  29. ^ Rizzo, Lillian (5 Aug 2015). "Jimmy John's Faces Boycott Call Over Founder's Trophy Hunting". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 28 October 2016.
  30. ^ Editors (12 October 2011). "Chambana Mom to Know: Leslie Liautaud Chambana Mom to Know: Leslie Liautaud". Retrieved 2 June 2016.[unreliable source?]
  31. ^ Ewen, Beth (March 22, 2017). "How Jimmy John's landed FT's deal of the year". Franchise Times. Retrieved April 2, 2017.
  32. ^ McKinstry, Erin (23 April 2018). "As generations age, farm owners less connected to their land". Columbia Missourian. Retrieved 30 April 2018.

External linksEdit