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Famous Dave’s names Adam Wright CEO

Activist investor had held interim post since June

Famous Dave’s of America Inc. has named Adam Wright CEO, a position he had held on an interim basis since June, the company said Monday.

The Minneapolis-based casual-dining operator temporarily named Wright, an activist investor who won a board seat in 2013, to fill the position vacated on June 18, when former CEO Ed Rensi stepped down.

“We are impressed with the steps Adam has taken to move the business forward since his appointment as interim CEO six months ago,” said Joseph Jacobs, chairman of the 179-unit barbecue chain’s board.

“As a longtime investor, he understands the challenges that the company faces and the opportunities ahead,” Jacobs said in a statement. “We are confident in his leadership and strategy for the future.”

Wright is the latest in a series of chief executives at Famous Dave’s since 2007, when David Goronkin left the company. Rensi, a former McDonald’s Corp. executive, had served as interim and permanent CEO since February 2014. His predecessor, John Gilbert, resigned from the CEO role less than 18 months after taking the job, in October 2012.

In a press release, Wright said he was “passionate about barbeque, and am eager to rebuild this company by focusing on our guests, collaborating with the franchisees, and improving our company culture.”

Wright has served on Famous Dave’s board since 2013, while serving as managing partner of Blue Clay Capital Management, a Minneapolis-based investment partnership he co-founded. Prior to establishing Blue Clay, Wright worked at Whitebox Advisors, UnitedHealth Group and Goldman Sachs.  

Founder Dave Anderson, who rejoined the company in October as part of Wright’s strategy to rebuild the company, added,“Adam has already demonstrated that an improved guest experience is a top priority in every capacity — the value, the experience and the food. He cares deeply about the company and the team. We are very excited for the future of the brand.”

In November, Famous Dave’s said it had fallen out of compliance with requirements on its lending agreement with Wells Fargo amid declining sales.

Net income for the third quarter ended Sept. 27 fell 65 percent, to $708,000, or 10 cents a share, from $2 million, or 28 cents a share, in the same period a year ago, the company said. 

Revenue in the quarter fell 15.6 percent, to $31.8 million, from $37.7 million. The company said that the closure of four restaurants and the refranchising of five locations, as well as the same-store sales decrease, led to the decline.

Same-store sales fell 9.8 percent at company-owned locations and have declined nearly 15 percent on a two-year basis. Same-store sales fell 3.6 percent at franchised locations.

Famous Dave’s said on Dec. 21 that it had sold seven company-owned locations in the Chicago market to Elliott Baum, the chain’s franchisee in Ohio and Michigan, for $1.15 million plus the cost of inventory

That brought Famous Dave’s number of company-owned restaurants to 37, and franchised restaurants to 142. The company has units in 33 states.

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected].
Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless

TAGS: People News
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