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Another senior exec to leave Wendy's

DUBLIN Ohio The executive who led Wendy's International Inc.'s efforts to diversify its restaurant portfolio in a buying spree of fast-casual brands is resigning, as the parent of the No. 3 burger brand remains quiet about its own possible sale.

Jonathan F. Catherwood, executive vice president of mergers and acquisitions and treasurer, will be leaving the company on May 3, Wendy's said in a statement filed Tuesday with federal regulators. No reason was given for his departure.

Catherwood's resignation follows that of Wendy's executive vice president of human resources, Jeffrey M. Cava. His last day also is May 3, Wendy's said. In addition, the company also has not yet named a permanent chief marketing officer after Ian Rowden resigned late last year. Paul Kershisnik, senior vice president of marketing strategy, has been serving as interim CMO.

Catherwood joined Wendy's in 2001, when the company was on the hunt for other restaurant concepts under then-chief executive Jack Schuessler. Shortly after Catherwood came on board, Wendy's paid $275 million to buy the Baja Fresh Mexican Grill fast-casual chain. Around the same time, Wendy's also purchased stakes in Cafe Express, a Houston-based fast-casual concept, and Pasta Pomodoro, a San Francisco-based chain of full-service Italian restaurants. Wendy's also owned the Canada-based Tim Hortons chain of doughnut shops, which it acquired in 1995.

Wendy's has since pared its restaurant holdings to its core burger brand and a minority stake in Pasta Pomodoro after struggling to maintain sales amid intense competition and criticism that it had lost its focus. It sold its Baja Fresh chain for a loss, at $31 million, in late 2006.

Last April, Wendy's announced that it would be reviewing its strategic options, including a possible sale of the company. The company said early this year that a special committee of board members was "in the final stages of its review process." However, no official timetable has been set, and Wendy's has yet to announce the date of its annual shareholder meeting, which typically is held in April, with a proxy statement filed in March.

Speculation has been growing among observers and analysts that Wendy's will not be able to finalize a sale of the company in today;s depressed economy and tightened credit environment. The company's annual meeting may be delayed as Wendy's review continues.

Among those shareholders pushing for a sale is activist investor Nelson Peltz, who through his Trian Fund Management and affiliated funds holds a 9.8-percent stake in Wendy's. Arby's parent Triarc Cos. Inc. Ñ of which Peltz is nonexecutive chairman Ñ submitted an official bid in November to buy the company. Peltz also most recently indicated that he was seeking control of WendyÕs board and wanted to increase its size. Trian already has three of 13 WendyÕs board seats.

Dublin, Ohio-based Wendy's has more than 6,600 namesake units worldwide.

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