ATLANTA Frank J. Belatti, founder of AFC Enterprises Inc., which is now parent to the Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits brand, is retiring as chairman of the company, according to a Dec. 3 statement. AFC board member John M. Cranor, a former leader of Long John Silver’s and KFC, will succeed Belatti in the post. It was unclear at press time when the transition would occur, and calls to the company were not returned by the time of this posting.
Belatti founded AFC Enterprises in 1992 and served as its CEO until 2005, when he then became chairman. During his tenure as CEO he took the company public in March 2001, after developing AFC's brand portfolio to include the Church's Chicken, Cinnabon and Seattle Coffee Co. concepts. At that time, the company's expansive portfolio of chains together netted about $2.1 billion in systemwide sales. All of those brands have since been divested.
As CEO, Belatti also faced accusations of financial fraud, and related shareholder lawsuits. The largest of those lawsuits was settled in 2005 for about $15 million. AFC spent years restating the company's financial results for the fiscal years 2000 to 2002.
Cranor, who has been a member of AFC's board since November 2006, previously held leadership roles at Long John Silver's and KFC, where he was president and CEO from 1989 to 1994.
AFC chief executive Cheryl A. Bachelder, who was appointed to that post in October, also is a veteran of KFC, where she was president and chief concept officer from 2001 to 2003. In a statement Belatti said he was confident both Bachelder and Cranor would work well together.
Following his retirement from AFC, Belatti will become a full-time managing partner of Atlanta-based investment firm Equicorp Partners LLC.
AFC, based here, operates or franchises 1,881 Popeyes restaurants in the United States, Puerto Rico, Guam and 24 foreign countries.