Chobani founder invests in upmarket coffee roaster La Colombe; no comment on reports it is exploring sale of minority stake

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Chobani founder Hamdi Ulukaya with La Colombe co-founders Todd Carmichael and Jean Philippe Iberti
Chobani founder Hamdi Ulukaya with La Colombe co-founders Todd Carmichael and Jean Philippe Iberti

Related tags Coffee

Chobani founder Hamdi Ulukaya has invested an undisclosed sum in upmarket coffee firm La Colombe Coffee Roasters that will make him the majority owner, but says he will not take on any management responsibilities at the Philadelphia-based firm, and will not have a seat on the board.

Ulukaya had not originally planned to invest in La Colombe​ – which was co-founded by Todd Carmichael and JP Iberti in 1994 - but “saw a chance to mount an insurgency in a food category dominated by two or three major players and dozens of boutique roasting businesses, rather like the opportunity he saw in yogurt,"​ according to the New York Times.

In a press release issued this morning, Ulukaya added: “I believe in the quality of the product, the brand vision of La Colombe and the experience they've created in their cafes. I completely share Todd and JP’s mission to increase the craft and quality of coffee in America while elevating the café experience to something truly special.”

La Colombe operates 12 cafes and has a fast-growing wholesale business supplying cafes, hotels, and restaurants; but is also developing plans to move into ready to drink coffee products, single serve, retail, e-commerce, and packaged coffee.  

Chobani seeking to sell minority stake?

Separately, Chobani declined to comment on a Bloomberg report​ claiming that it is working with Goldman Sachs to explore the sale of a minority stake in the business to a strategic partner.

Asked whether his investment in La Colombe was part of an exit strategy for Ulukaya following Chobani’s admission last year that the board was searching for a more “operationally oriented​” CEO​, a Chobani spokesman stressed that Ulukaya was fully committed to running Chobani as chairman and CEO and was not taking on any board responsibilities at La Colombe.

He also referred us to a quote Ulukaya gave to the New York Times following the La Colombe investment: “My energy and my hearty are still devoted to Chobani.”

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