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Subway’s billionaire owner has quietly started her own foundation that’s separate from her late husband’s multi-million dollar nonprofit

  • Elisabeth DeLuca, the widow of Subway co-founder Fred DeLuca, started her own foundation.
  • DeLuca was already a director for the Frederick A. DeLuca Foundation. 
  • She is in the spotlight as Subway sales rumors swirl and franchisees call on DeLuca for assistance.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Elisabeth DeLuca — one of Subway’s owners and the widow of co-founder Fred DeLuca — has started her own charitable foundation. 

DeLuca filed to create the Elisabeth C. DeLuca Foundation in December 2020, according to Florida business records viewed by Insider. In an annual report filed in April, DeLuca and attorneys Patrick Emans and Richard Hutchison are listed as directors of the Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based corporation. 

DeLuca is also a director for the Frederick A. DeLuca Foundation, which is named after her late husband, Subway co-founder Fred DeLuca.

Subway and an attorney representing DeLuca did not respond to Insider’s requests for comment on the Elisabeth C. DeLuca Foundation and how it might differ from the Frederick A. DeLuca Foundation. 

The Frederick A. DeLuca Foundation’s stated mission is to “support charitable programs that empower individuals to lead healthy and productive lives,” with donations to groups such as the American Heart Association, Habitat for Humanity, and the South Florida Symphony Orchestra. The foundation is primarily funded by donations from Elisabeth DeLuca, according to 990 filings. 

The Frederick A. DeLuca Foundation massively ramped up grants and charitable giving in the years since Fred DeLuca’s death.

In 2018, the most recent year the nonprofit filed its 990 financial statement with the IRS, the foundation paid $11.3 million in contributions, gifts, and grants, with expenses totaling $13.6 million. That’s up more than 6,000% since 2015, when expenses totalled $214,439.

Read more: Rumors are flying that Subway is up for sale as the distressed sandwich chain lays off hundreds to cut costs and abandons franchisees

DeLuca is in the spotlight as rumors swirl of a possible Subway sale

The Frederick A. DeLuca Foundation has seen a significant increase in contributions received and given since the death of Fred DeLuca in 2015. When the Subway co-founded died of leukemia, Forbes estimated his net worth to be $2.5 billion. 

In 2012, three years before DeLuca’s death, the Frederick A. DeLuca Foundation’s total revenue was $231,340 and expenses (including charitable disbursements) were $166,430.

In 2015, revenue skyrocketed to $173 million. The same year, expenses were $214,439. Revenue slid to $40.9 million in 2016, then jumped to $128 million and $125 million in 2017 and 2018.

Expenses over that time period ranged from a low of $214,439 in 2015 to a high of $13.6 million in 2018. 

The typically private Elisabeth DeLuca has been in the spotlight recently amid rumors of a potential sale of Subway, which Subway has denied. In late April, a group of more than 100 Subway franchisees wrote an open letter to DeLuca, calling on her to address problems they say they are facing. 

“We had to take away from our families so that we can pay royalties to you, a multi-billionaire who does not need a bailout or any federal aid,” the letter said.

In a franchise disclosure document filed in late April, Subway reported it had closed a net 1,601 locations in the US in 2020. 

Insider previously reported that rumors have been swirling that Subway was hoping to sell itself, following the arrival of CEO John Chidsey in late 2019. DeLuca and Subway co-founder Dr. Peter Buck are owners of the privately-held company. Neither are listed as directors in Subway’s 2021 franchise disclosure document, a departure from the 2020 document.  

“What is confirmed through chitchat in the restaurant industry is that both RBI — Restaurant Brands International — and also Inspire, in the last year to year and a half, have done due diligence looking at Subway,” John Gordon, a restaurant analyst with Pacific Management Consulting Group, told Insider in April. 

A Subway representative said that the company “is not for sale.”

Do you have a story to share about Subway or the Frederick A. DeLuca Foundation? Email [email protected], or get in touch via the Signal encrypted messenger app at (646) 768-4740.

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