- Panera/David Elmes
- Rumors have been flying about Panera’s former CEO Ron Shaich as Chipotle searches for a new top executive.
- But Shaich tells Business Insider he has no interest in the gig, which would force him to step away from his role as Panera’s chairman to lead a struggling public company.
- Shaich is a vocal critic of what he sees as Wall Street’s obsession with short-term growth, which he says contributed to the decision to take Panera private in 2017.
It seems like a good fit in many ways: Shaich stepped down as Panera’s CEO last year and, like Chipotle’s long-term CEO Steve Ells, is a vocal proponent of natural ingredients.
There’s just one problem. Shaich doesn’t want the job.
“I was running the most successful restaurant company of the last 20 years,” Shaich told Business Insider. “We had 6% comps last year. We’re doing as well as anybody. Why in the world would I ever leave Panera to go try to solve Chipotle’s problems?”
Shaich continued: “I’ve had something that’s phenomenal. After running a public company for 26 years … why would I ever go to work for Bill Ackman?”
Billionaire Bill Ackman’s hedge fund Pershing Square became Chipotle’s largest shareholder when it acquired a roughly 10% stake in the company in 2016.
Chipotle has continued to struggle since the deal, with shares of the company down nearly 60% since peaking in August 2015. In November, Chipotle announced that Ells, who also founded the chain, would step down as soon as the company found a new CEO to lead its turnaround efforts.
Shaich is a vocal critic of what he sees as Wall Street’s obsession with short-term growth, something he believes is plaguing many public companies. Panera was acquired by JAB Holdings in 2017, in part because Shaich believed it to be the best way for the company to focus on medium- and long-term goals.
Since stepping down as Panera’s CEO at the end of 2017, Shaich says that he has started personally investing in and working with smaller companies to help allow them to focus on long-term transformation as opposed to short-term results. According to Shaich, driving long-term growth at Panera and these companies is his focus right now.
Plus, Shaich says, Chipotle’s new CEO will be far from a final solution for the chain.
“The challenge of Chipotle is that it was over-priced,” Shaich said. “The market oversold it. It’s not that it’s a bad company … It just need to grow the old-fashioned way. Make a difference every day.”