Jack in the Box CEO Lenny Comma has informed the chain's Board that he plans to leave the company. A succession plan is now under way to identify his successor, the company announced Wednesday in a regulatory filing.
“I’m proud of what the company has been able to accomplish during my tenure as Chairman and CEO,” Comma said in a statement. “Since 2014, we’ve sold Qdoba, finished our evolution to an asset-light brand by completing our refranchising efforts, gone through a rigorous strategic alternatives process, completed a very complex $1.3 billion securitization transaction, dramatically strengthened our operations leadership bench, and recently concluded our ninth straight year of system same-store sales growth.”
He went on to say he's committed to working with the board to identify and work with a successor "who will continue to grow this exceptional brand."
The announcement comes as Comma, who has been with the company for 18 years, has been criticized by franchisees for not doing enough to reverse declining sales. He has been CEO and board chairman for six years.
Tension between the National Jack in the Box Franchisee Association and the chain escalated last year when the group announced a vote of no confidence for Comma and his leadership team. The association represents 89% of Jack in the Box operators who own about 1,900 franchised restaurants.
In a statement, the association said it wishes the best for Comma and his family and is "looking forward to being involved in the future direction of the brand.”
“We are excited for a change in direction and welcome new leadership. The past few years have been very challenging, yet we are confident that this iconic brand will become stronger and better in the years to come,” the association said in a statement sent to Nation’s Restaurant News
Lead director David Goebel said the company is working with Spencer Stuart to identify a new CEO from both an internal and an external pool of candidates.
"The Board is grateful for Lenny’s willingness to work with us to assure a seamless transition of his leadership role, and we will proceed diligently to find another world-class leader for the Jack in the Box organization," Goebel said in a statement.
In the fall, the quick-service chain announced other executive depatures. Phillip Rudolph, chief legal and risk officer, is leaving Feb. 28. Mark Blankenship, chief of staff and strategy, and Paul Melancon, controller and treasurer, are leaving Jan. 3.
“Their responsibilities will be assumed by others within the organization,” the company said at the time.
San Diego-based Jack in the Box has more than 2,200 restaurants in 21 states and Guam.
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Updated: This story has been edited to include additional details