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Emil Brolick to retire as Wendy’s CEO

Emil Brolick will be succeeded as CEO and president of Wendy’s in May by CFO Todd Penegor, the chain announced today.

Brolick is retiring, but will keep a seat on Wendy’s board.

He will begin transitioning CEO duties to Penegor during the first quarter of 2016, Wendy’s said, adding that its search for a new CFO is currently underway.

Brolick rejoined Wendy’s in September 2011 as CEO, after leaving because he did not get the top job in an earlier transition. Brolick went to Taco Bell, where he served in a number of high-level positions as Wendy’s unwound, losing sales and market share to competitors because of what critics said was a loss of focus. The franchisor had diversified, buying such fast-casual brands as Baja Fresh, Café Express and Pomodor. It also experimented with breakfast and flirted with a line of deli sandwiches.

Brolick, who has a marketing background, was brought back to refocus the chain on its roots as a mass-market burger-and-chicken chain promising better quality than its main competitors, McDonald’s and Burger King.  He steered the chain slightly upmarket, experimenting with premium sandwiches like a hamburger served on a pretzel bun.  He even fiddled with the look of Wendy’s mascot, a pig-tailed girl.

The chain is still in the process of rolling out a new, more contemporary building design that was forged under Brolick’s watch.

The moves he made have connected both with customers and investors.

"Serving our customers, employees, franchisees and shareholders has been one of the greatest privileges in my life,” Brolick said in a statement. “I feel honored to have been chosen as a steward of Dave Thomas' great legacy for the Wendy's family, and I could not be more confident in Todd Penegor as the president and CEO of The Wendy's Co.. I believe Wendy's best days are yet to come."

Penegor is relatively unknown in the restaurant business, having joined Wendy’s in 2013 after working for Kellogg’s. He has held the CFO’s job since 2013, and has also served as an EVP since December.

He was first exposed to Wendy’s as a child; his father was a single-unit franchisee in Iron Mountain, Mich. 

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