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Benihana names new CEO as Schwartz retires

MIAMI Benihana Inc. has named board member Richard C. Stockinger chief executive to replace Joel A. Schwartz, who is retiring, the parent of three Japanese-theme chains said Tuesday.

Schwartz is also stepping down from his role as chairman. Benihana said it has tapped former director Darwin C. Dornbush to serve as non-executive chairman and John E. Abdo, a longtime board member, to act as vice chairman.

Schwartz, who has been with Benihana for 28 years, said he planned to spend more time with his family and his philanthropic work.

Stockinger joined the Benihana board in 2006. His restaurant experience includes 25 years in various roles, including president, at The Patina Restaurant Group LLC and its predecessor, Restaurant Associates Inc.

“I am convinced that Benihana has all of the strengths to weather and even thrive in the difficult environment it faces: outstanding brand recognition for its core teppanyaki concept, exciting newer brands, RA Sushi and Haru, which broaden the company’s demographic appeal and geographic reach, and most important, a hard working, energetic and dedicated employee base,” Stockinger said.

Dornbush, a founding partner of the New York law firm Dornbush, Schaeffer, Strongin & Venaglia LLP, was a Benihana director from 1995 to 2005 and now serves as a special consultant to the company.

Abdo is vice chairman of BankAtlantic Bancorp.

Benihana owns and operates 94 restaurants nationwide, including 63 Benihana teppanyaki restaurants, nine Haru sushi restaurants, and 22 RA Sushi Bar restaurants. The company has 20 franchised Benihana units in the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected].

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