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Subway Finds a Suitor and Updates Leadership Team

Acquisition activity is heating up in the restaurant space. The latest example is private equity firm Roark Capital reaching an agreement to acquire Subway, the quick-service sandwich chain.

How much Roark will pay to acquire Subway or when the deal will close is unknown. Earlier this week, though, the Wall Street Journal reported the final bid for Subway was $9.6 billion. Subway reports having roughly 37,000 units spread across 100 countries systemwide.

Earlier this month, though, Bain Capital Private Equity inked a deal to acquire Fogo de Chão from Rhône Capital, which has owned the company since 2018. Also in August, Fiesta Restaurant Group, parent company of Pollo Tropical, agreed to sell to Authentic Restaurant Brands for $220 million. And in May, multiconcept operator Darden Restaurants reached a deal to acquire Ruth’s Hospitality Group, which is the parent company of Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. But more changes may be in the offing among restaurant chains. For example, in May, Panera made a leadership change in preparations for a possible run at an initial public offering.

Roark is no stranger to the restaurant industry. Per the company’s websites, some of Roark’s current restaurant investments range from quick-service concepts to fast-casual concepts to multiconcept operators. One of Roark's more notable investments is multiconcept operator Inspire Brands, which owns such chains as Dunkin’, Buffalo Wild Wings and Jimmy John’s, among others.

Reaching an agreement with Roark is the latest step in Subway's months-long process to transform the business. In February the chain announced plans to sell before eventually extending the sales process as new suitors reportedly emerged. Then in July Subway unveiled plans to roll out slicers to 20,000 of its locations as part of a menu revamp.

During the week of August 14, Subway made a series of updates to its senior management team, announcing that Trevor Haynes, Subway’s president of North America, will leave the chain at the end of the calendar year ending his 17-year run with the company. Douglas Fry, country director of Subway Canada, will assume the role of president of North America, effective September 5. Fry has been with Subway for two years. Fry’s background includes leadership roles at McDonald's, Recipe Brands and Kraft Heinz. Subway is working to identify his successor in Canada.

Subway's former global chief marketing officer, Carrie Walsh, transitioned to the role of president of EMEA, overseeing all functions across 50 countries and territories. Walsh has been with Subway for more than six years. The company's former EMEA president, Mike Kehoe, will return to fill the newly created role of U.S. as global chief development officer. Kehoe will assume his new role on October 16, 2023.

Finally, Subway promoted Cristina Wells to senior vice president of U.S. Marketing. Wells joined Subway’s U.S. marketing team in 2021 as vice president of strategy and planning after spending five years with the company in Canada in marketing, strategy and operations roles.