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Chipotle Founder Steve Ells Steps Down as CEO

The company needs fresh blood to aid its turnaround following major food safety woes

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Beleaguered burrito chain Chipotle is giving its CEO the boot. Steve Ells, who founded the company in 1993, will step down as soon as the company finds a new chief executive to replace him.

Chipotle announced the change in leadership this morning via press release, noting that Ells will remain part of the company as its executive chairman.

The change has seemingly been a long time coming: The chain has been in a major sales slump since it was plagued by multiple food safety disasters beginning in the fall of 2015. Dozens of customers were sickened, resulting in a slew of lawsuits — and just when it looked like Chipotle may have been on the road to recovery, disaster struck again with a norovirus outbreak at a Virginia store in summer 2017.

“I am incredibly proud of Chipotle and our people — and grateful to our loyal customers — and while we are continuing to make progress, it is clear that we need to move faster to make improvements,” Ells says in the press release. “Simply put, we need to execute better to ensure our future success.”

Chipotle’s turnaround plan involved ramping up food safety procedures, giving away lots of free burritos, introducing new menu items, and pouring money into marketing campaigns, but sales have remained dismal. Its stock price is currently hovering around $294 a share, down approximately 60 percent from its all-time high in summer 2015.

Chipotle Begins Search for New CEO [Press Release]
Chipotle’s Norovirus Outbreak Triggers Lawsuit, Federal Investigation [E]