Panera’s CEO is stepping down to address a huge problem he believes is crippling the US economy

Panera's CEO and founder, Ron Shaich.

Panera’s CEO and founder, Ron Shaich.
Panera/David Elmes

    Panera’s founder and CEO, Ron Shaich, is stepping down at the end of the year. Shaich says he wants more time to debate Wall Street’s obsession with short-term growth. Short-termism “stops innovation” and “makes us less competitive as an economy,” Shaich told Business Insider.

Panera’s founder and CEO is stepping down, but he isn’t shutting up.

On Wednesday, Ron Shaich told Business Insider he would step down as CEO at the end of the year – partly to address a problem he thinks is crippling the US economy.

“It allows me to really push this debate that I want to have about how short-termism has infused our capital markets and our whole national discussion,” Shaich said.

“I speak as one of the most successful CEOs of the last 26 years,” he continued. “I’ve been a CEO longer than Cal Ripken played baseball. And yet I can tell you: Short-termism has pervaded capital markets.”

Shaich has long been outspoken on issues including nutrition and Wall Street’s follies. However, with JAB Holdings acquiring Panera in July for roughly $7.5 billion, the Panera founder is now in the perfect position to discuss what he says are the dangers of the modern stock market’s hunger for short-term results.

“It stops innovation,” Shaich said. “It stops the very things that drive economic growth. And it makes us less competitive as an economy.”

At Panera, Shaich has emphasized the long game. Moves like swapping soda for beverages with lower profit margins don’t help the chain now, but Shaich has maintained they are crucial in the long term.

Of focusing on the long term, Shaich said, “It’s not complicated – it’s just hard to do, and hard to stick with it, and hard to do really well.”

He added: “If you want to do it really well, it requires empathy. Empathy is climbing into somebody’s mind – it’s not just seeing what you feel.”

Separately on Wednesday, Panera announced plans to acquire Au Bon Pain, a bakery-café chain Shaich helped launch in the 1980s.