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In his new podcast, “52 Minutes,” host Paul Ruedi spoke with Jimmy John Liautaud, the founder of Jimmy John’s. They talked about how he grew his company, about getting bullied growing up and the other business ventures he’s involved in. “I am a 35-year-overnight success,” Liautaud said. Here’s more:

On almost getting kicked out of high school:

“I was a freshman at Elgin Academy, and my parents put me at private school. I had a rough go. And so about six months in, the school wanted to kick me out, just because I didn’t follow the rules … And I was just an insecure kid.”

“Jim Lyons, the disciplinary dean, told the school, ‘If you’re going to kick Jimmy out, then I’m leaving, too.’ And so Jim Lyons took me under his wing in high school.”

“He took care of me. And he made me work. And he made me focus. And he helped me with my homework. And he sat side-by-side with me through my whole high school, and I graduated Elgin Academy, and I graduated second last to my class, but I graduated.”

On his relationship with his father, James P. Liautaud:

“He was an intense guy. And he was powerful. And after that bankruptcy in ’76, he was a very successful guy.”

“I built this boat, and even at the end of my dad’s life, I never showed him the boat. I had it for about a year before he died (six years ago). And I didn’t even bring it up, because I think it did bother him, and I think it was hard on him. But he would champion me to other people. But privately, he was very, very hard on me. And I don’t know if that’s a dad thing, but I’m pretty much over that, too.”

On Jimmy John’s contribution to the local hotel scene:

From “2005 until 2018, we averaged 27,699 hotel rooms per year … for operations and training. And then we had another 6,037 franchise sales meetings where we brought people in from out of town, so typically, that was a two-night stay. So we’re right at about a half a million hotel rooms that we used in Champaign.”

— Ben Zigterman


Ben Zigterman is a reporter covering business at The News-Gazette. His email is, and you can follow him on Twitter (@bzigterman).

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