Wendy's Co. said Thursday that CEO Roland Smith will step down, two months after engineering the company's sale of the struggling Arby's chain. He is being replaced by Emil Brolick, a fast-food veteran currently with Yum Brands Inc.
Smith, 57, said in a statement that he was leaving because he wants to stay close to family in Georgia. Wendy's announced last month that it would move its corporate headquarters from Atlanta back to Dublin, Ohio, as another step in its breakup with Arby's.
Brolick, 63, starts on Sept. 12 and will relocate to the Dublin area from Irvine, Calif.
Brolick is the chief operating officer of Louisville, Ky.-based Yum Brands but worked for Wendy's for 12 years before leaving for Yum in 2000. He is also the president of Yum's A&W All American Food Restaurants and Long John Silver's. However, Yum has been trying to sell those chains since January, saying they don't fit its long-term growth strategy.
Yum Brands also owns Taco Bell, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Pizza Hut. It has increased both net income and revenue in every quarter for the past year.
Hedge fund magnate Nelson Peltz, who is Wendy's chairman, said in a statement that he was "thrilled to welcome Emil back to the Wendy's family."
Brolick said in a statement that Wendy's is "one of the most attractive growth stories" in the fast-food industry.
Smith was CEO of Arby's, which was owned by Peltz, when Peltz decided to buy Wendy's as well in 2008. Smith became the CEO of the combined company. The marriage of the two companies was short-lived. By the end, Wendy's was the driver instead of the passenger, and this summer it sold Arby's to a private-equity firm in Atlanta.
Now, Wendy's is focusing on expanding in fast-growing international markets to combat an expected slowdown from tapped-out U.S. customers. It's also introducing breakfast at more of its locations, a meal that is expected to be one of the few growth areas for restaurants in the coming decade.
In August, Wendy's reported second-quarter results that excluded Arby's. Revenue rose 2.5 percent, after falling for four of the five previous quarters.
In an interview with the Associated Press in June, Smith said he had "a very, very solid relationship" with Peltz.
"He says what he does, he does what he says, he holds people accountable, he has an idea a minute which is great from the standpoint of moving brands forward," Smith said at the time. "He's a tough taskmaster, but he's fair."
Wendy's shares rose 14 cents, or 2.9 percent, to $5.01 in midday trading.