CEO of Smash­burger re­signs af­ter 8 months

The burger chain’s co-founder will as­sume the role, be­com­ing its fourth leader since 2013.

The Denver Post - - BUSINESS - By Em­i­lie Rusch

Michael Nolan is out as Smash­burger CEO less than a year af­ter tak­ing over the reins of the fast-ca­sual burger chain.

Nolan, a for­mer Pan­era Bread Co. and Cor­ner Bak­ery ex­ec­u­tive, left the Den­ver-based com­pany last week, a Smash­burger spokes­woman con­firmed Wed­nes­day. The com­pany of­fered no ex­pla­na­tion for Nolan’s de­par­ture.

Tom Ryan, who co-founded Smash­burger in 2007 with Rick Schaden, will move into the CEO role, the fourth per­son to hold that ti­tle since 2013.

“Tom is re-en­gag­ing with the com­pany to en­sure its con­tin­ued pas­sion for great food and great guest ex­pe­ri­ence,” Smash­burger said in a state­ment.

A food in­dus­try vet­eran, Ryan had be­gun to take a more ac­tive, day-to-day role at Smash­burger. In May, he was named chief brand of­fi­cer, in charge of “spear­head­ing brand evo­lu­tion as the com­pany ex­pands its op­er­a­tions and global am­bi­tions,” ac­cord­ing to a news re­lease.

“As we set an ag­gres­sive growth pace, main­tain­ing the in­tegrity of the Smash­burger brand is paramount,” Schaden said in a state­ment at the time. “There is no bet­ter per­son than Tom to guide the evo­lu­tion of the Smash­burger brand as we en­ter this next phase of growth at home and abroad. His vi­sion and pas­sion have al­ways been at the heart of Smash­burger.”

Ryan, who holds a Ph.D. in fla­vor and fra­grance chem­istry from Michigan State Uni­ver­sity, is also the name­sake and co-founder of Tom’s Ur­ban, which

is up to four lo­ca­tions in Den­ver, Los An­ge­les, Las Ve­gas and Connecticut. Ear­lier in his ca­reer, he held brand­ing, mar­ket­ing and prod­uct de­vel­op­ment po­si­tions at Proc­ter & Gam­ble, McDon­alds, Pizza Hut and Quiznos.

Nolan’s short stint as CEO is the lat­est in a se­ries of lead­er­ship shake-ups at the fast­ca­sual chain, which Forbes mag­a­zine listed No. 1 among its top 100 “Most Promis­ing Com­pa­nies” in 2011.

Nolan took over as CEO in April, hav­ing joined Smash­burger this year as chief de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cer af­ter serv­ing on the board for four years.

He re­placed Scott Crane, who re­signed as pres­i­dent and CEO the week prior to Nolan’s ap­point­ment. A Smash­burger vet­eran, Crane had been the com­pany’s pres­i­dent since 2008, adding CEO to his ti­tle in Novem­ber 2013.

Crane’s pre­de­ces­sor as CEO, David Proku­pek, sued the com­pany in 2014, claim­ing he was owed mil­lions of dol­lars in stock af­ter be­ing fired in late 2013. The suit, which has since been set­tled, cen­tered on the com­pany’s value at the time of Proku­pek’s de­par­ture and how much he was there­fore owed in sev­er­ance.

Since open­ing its first lo­ca­tion in 2007, Smash­burger has grown to more than 370 res­tau­rants in 38 states and eight coun­tries. In Oc­to­ber 2015, Philip­pines restau­rant com­pany Jol­libee Foods Corp. ac­quired a 40 per­cent stake in the chain.

Tom Ryan, a co-founder of Smash­burger, will be­come the com­pany’s new CEO. Den­ver Post file

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