Industry News | March 31, 2017 | By Danny Klein | QSR Exclusive Brief

Steve Ells' Job Title at Chipotle Isn't Changing Anytime Soon

Chipotle Mexican Grill
Chipotle Mexican Grill
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Steve Ells won’t be changing his job status in the near future.

Chipotle’s shareholders pulled a vote Thursday to split the chief executive and chairman roles—both of which are currently occupied by Ells, the founder of the fast casual leader. In response, Chipotle said it plans to strengthen its lead director position, according to Reuters.

In November, Union-affiliated investors Amalgamated Bank and CtW Investment Group filed a proposal to strip the chairman’s role from Ells by instituting an independent chair.

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Chipotle opposed the move with a proposal that states, “We believe it is not only appropriate but also important for Mr. Ells to serve as Chairman in addition to serving as Chief Executive Officer. As the founder of our company, he has since our inception been the principal architect of our corporate strategy and vision, and continues to be a primary driving force to keep our company innovative and striving for constant improvement.”

Neil Flanzraich’s position as lead director will widen in scope. He has been an independent director since September 2015 and will write an annual letter to shareholders beginning next year.

Chipotle’s structural shakeup has been a headline-grabber over the past few months. Earlier in March, the chain announced that four of its 12 directors would not stand for board re-election at the company’s May 25 shareholder’s meeting.

They are: John Charlesworth, Patrick Flynn, Darlene Friedman, and Stephen Gillett. No reason was given at the time. Chipotle did say the moves were not influenced by activist shareholder Bill Ackman—the company’s largest shareholder—who owns a 10 percent stake in Chipotle.

Chipotle’s board of directors named Ells the company’s sole chief executive officer in December and announced that he would remain chairman of the board. Monty Moran stepped down from the co-CEO role and from his board seat to retire.

“Steve founded Chipotle more than 23 years ago with a powerful vision to use great ingredients prepared skillfully by hand, but served very fast,” Flanzraich said at the time. “This approach has proven to be a very successful formula, but as the company grew, operations became more complicated and less consistent.

Ells, a classically trained chef, started Chipotle in 1993 with a small loan from his father. Chipotle has since grown into one of the nation’s largest restaurant companies, with more than 2,200 locations in five countries. Ells served as chairman and CEO from 1993 until 2009 when he became co-CEO, a title he shared with Moran. The company went public in 2006.