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La Colombe Coffee Ropes In Chobani's Founder as Sole Investor

The yogurt mogul was a coffee skeptic until he tried the Philly-based roaster's product.

(L-R) Todd Carmichael, Hamdi Ulukaya, and JP Iberti see something funny.
(L-R) Todd Carmichael, Hamdi Ulukaya, and JP Iberti see something funny.
Photo courtesy of La Colombe

Hamdi Ulukaya, founder and CEO of Greek yogurt phenomenon Chobani, is now the majority owner of Philly's own La Colombe, the coffee company announced today. This despite the fact that Ulukaya is a self-described "tea maniac," according to a New York Times article covering the deal. He only found La Colombe when Chobani opened a New York City "yogurt bar" in 2012, and he was forced to select a coffee vendor:

Which was a challenge, because Mr. Ulukaya did not like coffee, or at least American coffee. A native of Turkey, coffee in his mind was thick and sweet, brewed in a copper pot lined with silver called a cezve and served in tiny, delicate glasses. American coffee, he said, made his stomach hurt.

Happily, Ulukaya was impressed by La Colombe's product, declaring that he believes it will "appeal to a large number of people like me who think they don't like coffee — until they taste this one," although he does not elaborate on what he found to be the crucial difference.

The details of the deal have not been disclosed, though the NYT notes that Ulukaya bought out private equity firm Goode Partners, who invested in the coffee company last fall. That previous deal was worth $28.5 million, spurring La Colombe co-owner Todd Carmichael to announce that the company had its eye on opening "upwards of 100 cafes" over the next handful of years. According to a press release outlining the deal, Carmichael and partner JP Iberti will "continue to lead the company in their current capacities," and Ulukaya will not assume a role on La Colombe's board or in management.

To date, the coffee brand has amassed a portfolio of 12 cafes, with four locations here in Philly (including the new Old City branch opened in July) as well as outposts in D.C., New York, and Chicago. In a blog entry posted to La Colombe's site today, Carmichael assures fans that "the soul of La Colombe ... is more important than ever" and displays some trademark bold optimism:

America deserves better coffee. And, now we're better set up to get it to them.

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