Reuters

(Reuters)

Sources: Gourmet Sandwich Chain Jimmy John's Prepares IPO

IPOs Reuters

Jimmy John's Franchise LLC is preparing for an initial public offering that could value the popular U.S. gourmet sandwich chain at more than $2 billion, including debt, according to people familiar with the matter.

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Jimmy John's, which is owned by founder Jimmy John Liautaud as well as private equity firm Weston Presidio, is interviewing investment banks to serve as underwriters for an IPO that could come later this year, three people said.

Jimmy John's has annual earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization of roughly $150 million, the people added.

The sources asked not to be identified because the deliberations are confidential. Representatives of Jimmy John's and Weston Presidio did not respond to requests for comment.

Restaurant chains such as Jimmy John's are keen to tap the public markets to replicate the success of Shake Shack Inc , which has seen shares more than quadruple since the burger chain's IPO in January. Shares of Shake Shack, which went public at $21, closed Tuesday at $85.76.

Champaign, Illinois-based company Jimmy John's, founded in 1983 by Liautaud in a converted garage, had explored an outright sale of major stake late last year, Reuters reported at the time.

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Jimmy John's has around 2,000 locations, most of which are franchised.

Weston Presidio acquired a 33 percent stake in Jimmy John's in 2007. The company has completed two recapitalizations since the buyout firm's investment.

Liautaud attracted political scrutiny in 2011 after threatening to move his company's headquarters from Illinois to a more tax-friendly state. He has also faced backlash from the Industrial Workers of the World, which has campaigned to unionize Jimmy John's workers, citing low wages and unpredictable shifts.

Other restaurant companies beyond Shake Shack have performed strongly since their IPO. Shares of Bojangles Inc have soared nearly 40 percent since the chicken and biscuits restaurant chain went public earlier in May.

Chicken-wing chain Wingstop Restaurants Inc announced earlier this month that it plans to raise up to $86 million in a public float. 

(Reporting by Olivia Oran in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)