Changing of the guard at 43-year-old Cousins Subs

Cousins Subs co-founder Bill Specht has surrendered his CEO title to daughter and company president Christine Specht-Palmert after running the regional chain for 43 years.

The elder Specht, 71, intends to maintain involvement in the business by serving as chairman. He opened the first Cousins in 1972 with his cousin Jim Sheppard when he couldn’t find a sub shop in Milwaukee that compared with the ones he knew while growing up on the East Coast. He grew it to 110 stores at the time of his retirement last week. Most are in Wisconsin, with some units in Arizona and Minnesota.

His daughter started working in Cousins restaurants while a teenager, and joined the corporate staff in 2001 as human resources director. She rose by 2008 to COO and president.

“Christine is undoubtedly going to achieve success in her role as CEO,” Specht said in announcing his retirement. “Her thoughts in treating people well are parallel to mine, and when you’re in the people business like we are, that’s paramount. She also believes in the quality of our product as much as I do. It’s rewarding to see the next generation taking over Cousins Subs.”

Another family member, Christine’s brother Bill Jr., is a multi-unit Cousins franchisee. 


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