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Wendy's Chief Exec Retires After 6 Years

Jack Schuessler will stay on as a consultant until 2008. A board member takes his chairman post.

April 18, 2006|From the Associated Press

Wendy's International Inc., the nation's third-largest hamburger chain, said Monday that Chairman and Chief Executive Jack Schuessler had retired.

The company appointed Chief Financial Officer Kerrii B. Anderson as the interim CEO and president.

James Pickett, a longtime board member, will serve as chairman.

Schuessler, 55, who joined Wendy's in 1976, spent six years as chief executive.

The move came as Wendy's struggles to boost sales, which were hurt in 2005 by a woman's false claim that she found part of a finger in a bowl of a chili.

Wendy's also spun off 17% of its Tim Hortons coffee-and-doughnut chain last month -- a move the company agreed to last summer after a major Wendy's shareholder, investment firm Pershing Square Capital Management, pressured the company to make changes to increase its stock price.

Wendy's denied that pressure prompted the initial offering of Tim Hortons.

Wendy's plans to sell its remaining stake in Tim Hortons by year's end.

Wendy's announced Schuessler's retirement after the close of trading Monday. Company shares fell 21 cents to $61.05 in regular trading but rose 19 cents after hours.

Schuessler has agreed to serve as a consultant for Wendy's for the next two years. He was not available for comment Monday evening, Wendy's spokesman Bob Bertini said.

The company said it would conduct a national search for a new CEO.

"Jack was always so positive about the Wendy's brand and contributed to our long-term success," Pickett said in a statement.

"His legacy is the strong team that he has built and his commitment to the restaurant business and our franchisees."

Schuessler had a rough 2005. Besides the push to sell Tim Hortons, Wendy's was pressured for better returns by billionaire investor Nelson Peltz's Trian Fund Management and Sandell Asset Management Corp.

The finger-in-the-chili allegation also weighed heavily on Schuessler, who held daily crisis-management conference calls with top executives and lawyers during the saga.

In an interview with the Associated Press in May, Schuessler said constant news coverage and stinging jokes on late-night TV made it difficult to stick with a company decision to stay quiet so it wouldn't interfere with the police investigation.

"It's very hard what we had to go through because your reputation is being slammed and your inclination is to fight back aggressively," he said.

Anna Ayala was sentenced in January to nine years in prison for extortion after planting part of a human finger in a bowl of chili at a San Jose Wendy's restaurant and claiming that it had been served to her. Her husband was sentenced to more than 12 years in prison for his role in the scheme.

Wendy's, based in the Columbus, Ohio, suburb of Dublin, operates about 9,900 restaurants under the names Wendy's, Tim Hortons and Baja Fresh Mexican Grill.

Wendy's 2005 revenue rose 4% to $3.78 billion.

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