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Max Wetzel named CEO of Carl's Jr., Hardee's parent

The former Papa Johns operations chief will take over as CEO of CKE Restaurants for Ned Lyerly.
CKE Restaurants CEO
The owner of Carl's Jr. and Hardee's has named Max Wetzel CEO. / Photo courtesy of CKE Restaurants.

CKE Restaurants, the owner of the Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. chains, on Friday named Max Wetzel CEO, effective immediately.

He takes over for Ned Lyerly, who had been CEO of the burger chain operator for four years.

Wetzel comes to CKE from Papa Johns, where he was chief operating officer. Wetzel had been with the pizza chain for four years. Papa Johns last month announced that he had stepped down for a CEO position with “another company,” though that other company was not revealed until Friday.

Sarah Spiegel, a board member with CKE, said Wetzel has a “proven track record leading brands to realize their growth potential,” which makes him “ideally suited for Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s … next chapter.”

CKE combined operate more than 3,800 mostly franchised locations under its two brands, which operate mostly identical concepts under two different brand names. Carl’s operates more than 1,600 locations, largely out West. Hardee’s has nearly 2,200, mostly in the Southeast. The brands have had largely stagnant system sales and unit count dating back at least to 2016, based on data from Restaurant Business sister company Technomic.

“The entire CKE team has built an incredible business and accomplished so much over the last several years,” Wetzel said in a statement. “I see massive opportunity to build on these accomplishments and accelerate growth of the Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s brands.”

Wetzel will be the third chief executive at the company since longtime CEO Andy Puzder left in 2017. Jason Marker came to the brand from KFC that year and lasted two years at CKE before he was replaced by longtime company executive Lyerly.

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