Jack in the Box said it is searching for a new CEO after current chief Lenny Comma informed the board of his intentions to leave the company.
The quick-service chain said Comma, who is also chairman, has not set a date for his departure. Jack in the Box quoted the long-serving leader as saying he believes the time is right to leave, and that he’s willing to play an active role in the transition.
Comma’s resignation follows a long, fierce conflict between Jack in the Box and its franchisees, who had pressed the company’s board of directors to fire the CEO and sell the chain. They also filed a lawsuit against the franchisor.
The brand did put itself up for sale, but subsequently stepped off the block and said it would pursue a refinancing instead. Potential suitors were concerned about the brand’s growth prospects, according to reports that surfaced at the time.
Franchisees voiced their opposition to the refinancing, saying it would load the brand with debt.
Comma was named chairman and CEO of Jack in the Box in January 2014 after working as president and chief operating officer. He was initially popular with franchisees, but strains emerged as the company set out on a strategy that the operators blasted as more beneficial to shareholders than the health of the brand. Among those initiatives was refranchising company stores. Today, the franchisor operates only about 100 of the chain’s 2,200 units.
“I’m proud of what the company has been able to accomplish during my tenure as chairman and CEO,” Comma said in the announcement released this afternoon by Jack in the Box. “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.”
The company said it has retained Spencer Stuart, an executive recruitment firm, to find Comma’s successor. Both internal and external candidates will be considered, the board said.