Burger King Corp. said Friday that its chief executive, Brad Blum, had left the company after 18 months on the job, citing strategic differences with the company's board of directors.
The departure of Blum, Burger King's ninth CEO in the last 15 years, was seen by analysts as a blow to a chain that has just recently begun to regain its footing in the competitive U.S. fast-food market.
"It's not a good day for Burger King," said Malcolm Knapp, president of restaurant market research firm Malcolm M. Knapp Inc.
Privately held Burger King said it hoped to make a decision on Blum's replacement by Aug. 1.
Burger King, which has about 7,700 restaurants in the United States, most of which are franchised, is owned by a private equity group consisting of Texas Pacific Group, Bain Capital and Goldman Sachs Capital Partners.
Owen Blicksilver, a spokesman for Texas Pacific, confirmed that meetings with potential candidates had taken place.
Blum, 50, joined Burger King as chairman and CEO, after leaving Darden Restaurants Inc., where he was vice chairman. He succeeded former Northwest Airlines Corp. CEO John Dasburg, who joined Burger King in 2001.
During Blum's time, Burger King changed advertising agencies and revamped its menu, prompting same-store sales, or sales at restaurants open at least a year, to post their biggest gain in 4 1/2 years in May.
But despite the chains' progress, trade publication Advertising Age reported last month that Blum was on his way out and that Burger King had interviewed potential candidates for his replacement.