At Wendy’s, Where’s the Chief?

Chairman and CEO suddenly steps down; CFO fills in.
Stephen TaubApril 18, 2006

In a surprise, Wendy’s International announced that Jack Schuessler will step down as chairman and chief executive officer after more than 30 years with the fast-food purveyor.

Chief financial officer Kerrii Anderson will step in as interim chief executive officer and president; long-time board member James Pickett was elected chairman. Wendy’s also announced that it will quickly retain a national firm to conduct a search for a permanent CEO.

“This does not have the earmarks of a long-planned management transition,” wrote Carol Levenson, director of research at Gimme Credit, according to Reuters. (Less planned, certainly, than the ascension of Burger King finance chief John Chidsey to the CEO chair not two weeks ago.)

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Same-store sales at Wendy’s have reportedly been lagging, especially by contrast with sales at a revitalized McDonald’s. Wendy’s is also under assault by activist investors, especially Trian Fund Management, run by billionaire investor Nelson Peltz. Earlier this year, reported Reuters, Peltz persuaded the company to put three of his nominees on the board, to spin off its Tim Hortons doughnut chain, and to consider strategic alternatives for its Baja Fresh Mexican food outlets.

Pickett has been a Wendy’s director since 1982, has been its lead director, and is chairman of the Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee.

Anderson has served as executive vice president, CFO, and a board member since 2000. “Kerrii has demonstrated excellent strategic management in many key areas of the corporation over the past six years,” said Pickett, in a statement. “She has a passion for the Wendy’s business, is committed to strong relationships with our franchisees, and has the respect and support of Wendy’s management team.”

Before joining Wendy’s, Anderson was senior vice president and chief financial officer of M/I Schottenstein Homes.