Note: Originally published February 29, 2016.
The founder and CEO of Jimmy John’s, a restaurant chain famous for the quick delivery of its products, is under fire for a 2010 African safari he participated in.
Jimmy John Liautaud took elephants, a rhino, and a leopard, along with plains game species — posing afterward for photos with a smile on his face and a thumbs up. Liautaud’s trophy hunting angered many and led to numerous calls for boycotts of his company. That anger has waxed and waned over the years as the photos have sporadically resurfaced, but the hunter began receiving consistent flak in the fall of 2015 after “Cecil” the lion’s death earlier that year.
Twitter user Jonah Lupton began stirring the pot again in August 2015, calling Liautaud a “scumbag” and literally begging the public to boycott Jimmy John’s as retaliation. No one has alleged that the hunts were illegal or handled in an unsportsmanlike manner, but the public continues to decry Liautaud’s choice to hunt species that are considered endangered.
In a Chicago Tribune article from Nov. 3, 2015, Liautaud said the hunts have certainly had an effect on his reputation, if not his business. He reportedly cried during the interview as he discussed the backlash.
“I choose to hunt and I choose to fish,” he said. “Everything I’ve done has been totally legal. And the meat has been eaten, if not by me then by someone I’m with.”
While still an avid hunter, Liautaud said he no longer hunts African big game.
The infamy from his 2010 safari is of particular importance in 2016. Business Insider said Jimmy John’s may be hurt by the reaction to Liautaud’s safari as it prepares to go public soon — an assessment Wall Street Journal seconded.
Atlantic Street Capital is reportedly considering Jimmy John’s as a potential investment, but declined a WSJ request for comment on whether the boycott would effect its decision. Atlantic has already bought a Jimmy John’s franchise in the Greater Chicago area.
The chain was founded in Chicago and is currently made up of 2,300 locations, with Liautaud’s hopes to double that in five years.
Liautaud founded Jimmy John’s in 1983 at the age of 19, building the sandwich empire around a reputation for speedy delivery. He told the Chicago Tribune, “Delivery was never a strategy. Delivery was really survival.” Its ad slogan, “Freaky Fast,” has been used in radio, television, and print advertisements to great effect.