Subway cofounder’s multi-billion dollar gesture revealed after death


One of the late cofounders of the restaurant giant Subway is giving his entire stake in the company to charity.
Peter Buck. Image: Getty

Peter Buck, the nuclear physicist who cofounded Subway nearly 60 years ago and died in November 2021, left instructions in his will to give his 50% of the sandwich chain to the Peter and Lucia Buck Foundation (PCLB), a charitable foundation he and his late wife set up in 1999, according to an announcement from his foundation on Tuesday.

The donation could be worth as much as US$5 billion or possibly more, based on a report earlier this month that Subway could be sold for more than US$10 billion.

The Buck foundation supports a variety of causes, including education, journalism, medicine and land conservation. The Buck family is one of the largest land owners in Maine, with more than 1.3 million acres of timberland held through the Tall Timbers Trust.

The foundation is also focused on improving the quality of life in Danbury, Connecticut, where the Buck family lived. Prior to this gift, Forbes calculated that the Buck family had given at least US$580 million to the foundation since it was formed.

“This gift will allow the foundation to greatly expand its philanthropic endeavours and impact many more lives, especially our work to create educational opportunities for all students, work Dr. Buck cared so deeply about,” Carrie Schindele, the executive director of the PCLB, said in the short press release, which did not include any comment from a Buck family member. A lawyer representing the family declined to comment beyond the press release.

A copy of Buck’s will, obtained by Forbes, shows that he made his two sons, Christopher and William Buck, along with Ben Benoit, the Chief Financial Officer of PCLB, the executors of his estate. Both Christopher and William are on the foundation’s board of directors. Christopher, who founded the nonprofit news organisation Retro Report, serves as the foundation’s director. The will, which was partly redacted, pointed to two trust agreements that likely outlined the bulk of Buck’s plans for his fortune.

The publicly available portion of the will did not detail what would happen to his “business entities,” though it noted they made up “a significant portion of the value of my estate.” It did address Buck’s personal possessions—including jewellery, cars and collections of art, stamps and coins—which were evenly divided between his two sons.

The announcement of Buck’s decision to give his fortune to charitable causes follows a Wall Street Journal report earlier this month that Subway is exploring a sale that could value it at more than US$10 billion. Subway’s other cofounder, Fred DeLuca, died in 2015. When Buck died in 2021, Forbes estimated his net worth at US$1.7 billion.

If Subway does indeed sell for US$10 billion, that would value Buck’s bequest at US$5 billion, making it one of the largest single donations in one year to a charitable foundation. Though it’s not the largest. Last year Bill Gates told Forbes he donated US$20 billion to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as part of a plan to increase the annual grantmaking of the foundation 50% by 2026.

The gift of the Subway stake to the Buck family foundation also erases what likely would have been a hefty tax bill that Buck’s heirs would have owed if Subway is sold. In the past year, other billionaires have made similar moves to give away their company. Yvon Chouinard, the billionaire founder of outdoor clothing firm Patagonia, announced last September that he was donating the company to a trust and a nonprofit group. A secretive billionaire named Barre Seid donated his manufacturing company, worth US$1.6 billion, to a political advocacy group before it was sold, the New York Times reported last August.

Subway was founded in 1965, when a 17-year-old DeLuca asked family friend Buck for advice on how to pay for college. Buck gave him US$1,000, which he used to launch “Pete’s Subway Submarines,” a sandwich shop named in Buck’s honor. Later renamed Subway, the business grew over the next few decades from a single store in Bridgeport, Connecticut to more than 40,000 locations.

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