Panera is being acquired by Europe's JAB Holding Co. for more than $7 billion.
JAB is better known for the growing stable of brands it owns or has a big stake in, including Peet's Coffee & Tea, Caribou Coffee Co., Stumptown Coffee and Keurig Green Mountain and Krispy Kreme Doughnuts.
For days there have been rumors of a deal for Panera, with one of the companies reportedly interested being Starbucks Corp.
On Wednesday, the St. Louis sandwich and soup chain revealed that it was actually JAB, an investment fund based in Luxemburg that has quietly become a Starbucks rival.
"Our success for shareholders is the byproduct of our commitment to long-term decision making and operating in the interest of all stakeholders, including guests, associates, and franchisees," said Panera founder and CEO Ron Shaich. "We believe this transaction with JAB offers the best way to continue to operate with this approach. We are pleased to join with JAB, a private investor with an equally long-term perspective, as well as a deep commitment to our strategic plan."
Shaich opened a Boston cookie store in the early 1980s and expanded to more than 2,000 bakery-cafes with annual revenue of $5 billion in sales.
JAB will pay $315 per Panera Bread Co. share. That's a 14.5 percent premium to the company's Tuesday closing price of $274.
The transaction, which includes approximately $340 million of debt, is expected to close in the third quarter. It still needs the approval of Panera shareholders. Once the deal is complete, Panera will become privately held company.
Shares of Panera jumped more than 12 percent before the opening bell Wednesday.