Red Lobster names restructuring expert as new CEO

Industry veteran Jonathan Tibus will take the reins as owner Thai Union Group prepares to sell the seafood chain. He replaces Horace Dawson, who is retiring.
Red Lobster
Red Lobster's owner is preparing to sell the chain. | Photo: Shutterstock

Red Lobster on Thursday installed a restructuring expert as its new CEO in an apparent step toward a sale by owner Thai Union Group.

Jonathan Tibus, a managing director with restructuring firm Alvarez & Marsal, has led turnaround efforts at Krystal, Real Mex, Kona Grill and Quiznos over the years, guiding several of the brands through bankruptcy. 

He will take over at Red Lobster from Horace Dawson, who plans to retire at the end of the month after six months as CEO

“I am excited to take on the challenge of the new role with the Red Lobster team and I look forward to working closely with Horace on our transition,” Tibus said in a statement.

Tibus' restaurant career has been marked by short stints at troubled chains. Most recently, he was chief restructuring officer at The Krystal Co. for nine months, guiding the chain through a 2020 bankruptcy. 

He joins Red Lobster as owner Thai Union Group is looking to offload the 660-unit casual-dining seafood chain after years of challenges, including a disastrous all-you-can-eat shrimp promotion last fall that led to heavy losses. 

Tibus will likely be in charge of restructuring Red Lobster’s finances and potentially a bankruptcy filing as Thai Union readies the chain for a sale. 

As of late February, the Thailand-based seafood conglomerate said it was still looking for a buyer and was “not expecting to get anything much” for the beleaguered brand.

The move marks the end of a long restaurant career for Dawson, who had led Red Lobster’s legal department since 2014. 

“I am so thankful for my time at Red Lobster and grateful to have worked with some of the best employees in the restaurant industry,” he said in a statement. “I will remain a lifelong supporter and fan of the brand and Red Lobster and its people will always hold a special place in my heart.” 

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