Robert L. Barney, chairman of Wendy's International Inc., is retiring from the hamburger restaurant chain he helped build.
Wendy's said it has no immediate plans to name a successor. Barney's departure date is effective May 20, the company said.
Barney had conditioned his retirement on the preparation of Jim Near, who became president in 1986, to assume the chairmanship, Wendy's spokesman Denny Lynch said. Near was named chief executive earlier this year.
Barney, 52, met Wendy's founder R. David Thomas when the two worked at a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in Columbus in 1964.
Thomas will retain the title of senior chairman.
Barney helped Thomas begin the hamburger restaurant chain, and served on its board after the Nov. 15, 1969, founding in downtown Columbus.
Barney became president in 1971, when Wendy's had two restaurants, and helped develop the company's franchising system. He was named chief executive in 1980 and chairman in 1982.
Wendy's, with nearly 3,800 restaurants and annual sales of $3 billion, celebrated its 20th anniversary earlier this month.
"Bob Barney is a great leader and an outstanding restaurant operator," Thomas said in a statement. "He's been a partner for 25 years and deserves much of the credit for building this company. His leadership has been critical to our success."
The company generally is viewed as No. 3 behind McDonald's and Burger King, but has suffered losses in recent years that, by some accounts, have placed it fourth behind Hardee's Food Systems Inc.
Kidder, Peabody & Co. analyst Howard Hansen said Wendy's market share is about 4.8%, compared to 5.5% for Hardee's.
Wendy's average per-store sales rose 2.4% to $759,000 in 1988, ending a three-year decline. Hardee's reported per-store average sales of $920,000 at its 3,200 units last year.