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Struggling fast-casual giant names new CEO

BY Marianne Wilson

Chipotle Mexican Grill has tapped a fast-food veteran from another Mexican-food chain as its next chief executive.

The company has appointed Brian Niccol as CEO and a member of the board, effective March 5, 2018. Niccol most recently served as CEO of Yum! Brands’ Taco Bell Division, where he is credited with a successful turnaround of the business.

Nicole replace Chipotle’s founder and current CEO, Steve Ells, who announced his intent to step down in November. He will
become executive chairman.

“Brian is a proven world-class executive, who will bring fresh energy and leadership to drive excellence across every aspect of our business,” said Ellis. “His expertise in digital technologies, restaurant operations and branding make him a perfect fit for Chipotle as we seek to enhance our customer experience, drive sales growth and make our brand more relevant to customers.”

Niccol joined Taco Bell in 2011. He served as president of the brand from 2013 to 2014, before taking the reins as CEO in Jan. 2015. Under his leadership, Taco Bell was repositioned as a lifestyle brand and launched numerous product initiatives, including the new breakfast daypart, the fastest growing daypart in the industry, according to a statement by Chipotle. He also revolutionized the brand’s digital approach through mobile ordering and payment across their 7,000 restaurants.

Prior to Taco Bell, Niccol held leadership roles at Pizza Hut, including VP of strategy, chief marketing officer, and general manager. He began his career at Procter & Gamble where he spent 10 years in various brand management positions.

Chipotle has been struggling with food safety issues since an E. coli crisis some two years ago drove customers away and damaged the reputation of the brand.

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Justice Department’s No. 3 official leaving for top legal post at Walmart

BY Marianne Wilson

The third-ranking official at the U.S. Justice Department is leaving to take a job in the private sector.

Walmart announced Rachel Brand will join the company as executive VP, global governance and corporate secretary, effective April 2. Brand, who will report to president and CEO Doug McMillon, will be responsible for the company’s legal, global ethics and compliance and global investigation, security, aviation and travel departments, along with her role as corporate secretary. She is replacing Jeff Gearhart, who retired at the end of January.

Brand’s departure created headlines because she is next in line to take over supervision of Robert Mueller’s special counsel if Rod Rosenstein, deputy attorney general of the Justice Department, were to quit or be fired. But associates downplayed her resignation. A close friend of Brand said, “She’s leaving, because she has the kind of job offer you don’t turn down,” reported NBC News.

“We are fortunate to have a leader of Rachel Brand’s stature join the company,” McMillon said. “We have strengthened our governance capabilities and Rachel will help us continue on that journey. Her strong character, capabilities and experience will enable her to contribute broadly as we shape the future of Walmart and strive to serve our customers even more effectively.”

Brand, the first woman to serve as associate attorney General, was sworn into office May 22, 2017. (She previously served in the Justice Department from 2003 to 2007, during the George W. Bush administration.)

After graduating from Harvard Law School, where she served as deputy editor-in-chief of the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, Brand clerked on the Massachusetts Supreme Court and then the U.S. Supreme Court, where she clerked for Justice Anthony Kennedy.

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GNC’s top merchant, a former Target vet, takes key role at Barnes & Noble

BY Marianne Wilson

Barnes & Noble has appointed a new chief merchandising officer.

The struggling bookseller named Timothy Mantel to the position, effective immediately. Mantel, who will be responsible for driving sales and profitability in all areas of merchandising within the company, succeeds Mary Amicucci, who left Barnes & Noble in September 2017 after 20 months on the job.

Most recently, Mantel served as chief merchandising officer for GNC Corp., where he led a $2.6 billion product portfolio and helped relaunch the company’s business model. Mantel, who joined GNC in February 2016, also worked to streamline and reinvigorate GNC’s owned brand portfolio positioning.

Prior to GNC, Mantel spent 21 years at Target Corp, from 1994 to 2015, most recently as senior VP, food, household essentials and food service. He had previously served as president of Target Sourcing services. He also held various positions from business analyst to buyer and merchandise planning director early in his career.

Barnes & Noble has been struggling to reverse its sagging fortunes. Sales during the past holiday season fell 6.4% over the previous year amid declining store traffic. In November, the retailer said it would focus more on books and less on gifts and toys and explore reducing tis store size.

“We are thrilled that Tim will be taking on the important role of chief merchandising officer for Barnes & Noble,” said Demos Parneros, CEO of Barnes & Noble. “His deep knowledge of retail and proven track record are exactly what we need to invigorate our merchandising strategy and grow our business. He will be a great addition to our management team.”

Barnes & Noble operates 632 Barnes & Noble bookstores in 50 states.

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