After a 16-year partnership, Subway is severing ties with its iconic spokesman, Jared Fogle.
The divorce follows an FBI raid on Mr. Fogle’s Indiana home on Tuesday. Authorities would not reveal the nature of the investigation or what they hoped to find on electronics removed from Fogle’s house. However, Subway said in a statement that it believed the raid was "related to a prior investigation" of a former employee of the Jared Foundation, an organization founded by Fogle to combat childhood obesity.
Two months ago, the then-executive director of the Jared Foundation, Russell Taylor, was charged with seven counts of production of child pornography and one count of possession of child pornography for allegedly filming minor children at his home. Subway declined to say whether this was the "prior investigation" in question.
Fogle’s attorney said in a statement that his client had not been arrested or charged, and has been cooperating with the investigation.
But Subway isn’t taking any chances. The sandwich chain has removed all references to Fogle from its website, and said in a statement that the two parties have "mutually agreed to suspend their relationship due to the current investigation."
Fogle first rose to spokesperson fame after Subway heard that he had dropped 245 pounds by regularly eating their sandwiches while he was a student at Indiana University. The chain began featuring him in commercials in 2000 to promote their image as a healthy place to eat. Today, millions of people know him as "The Subway Guy."
"If I had to guess, I'd say one-third to one-half of Subway's growth (over the past 15 years) is because of Jared," said Tony Pace, Subway's chief marketing officer, in a 2013 interview with USA Today,
Subway has said of the recent separation that "both Jared and Subway agree that this was the appropriate step to take" given the circumstances. But long before anybody suspected Fogle of possessing child pornography, people were already starting to ask the question: does Subway still need Jared?
Some say that the chain’s recent decline in sales is due to the fact that Jared’s "healthy" pitches are no longer convincing.
"The ‘Subway fresh’ has lost its appeal with consumers, because to them fresh has evolved to mean something very different," Darren Tristano, executive vice president of industry researcher Technomic, told the Washington Post.
Others believe Subway should never even have used Fogle as a spokesman in the first place, as using a real person as a mascot made the company "highly vulnerable to scandal."
"Whether Jared is guilty or not, Subway was foolish to associate its brand with an icon the restaurant never developed in-house," writes Toni Matthews in Inquisitr. "You could argue that it was just a matter of time."
This report includes material from the Associated Press.