Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

Puzder to Step Down From CEO Post Following Failed Labor Secretary Bid

  • Puzder will hand reins to president of Kentucky Fried Chicken
  • Yum Brands veteran Jason Marker will take the job in April

CKE Restaurants Holdings Inc. Chief Executive Officer Andy Puzder, who made an unsuccessful bid to become U.S. labor secretary earlier this year, said he will step down as leader of the fast-food chain.

Puzder will hand the reins next month to Jason Marker, 46, who most recently ran Kentucky Fried Chicken in the U.S. for Yum! Brands Inc. Marker also has worked for KFC overseas and at consumer-products giant Unilever.

The move follows Puzder’s controversial stint as a Trump administration cabinet nominee. After he was nominated in December to run the Labor Department, he faced allegations that he abused his first wife, along with complaints about how workers were treated at CKE’s Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s restaurants. Puzder also admitted to employing an undocumented immigrant as a housekeeper, whom he says he let go upon learning of her status.

In February, Puzder withdrew his name for labor secretary and said he intended to return to CKE after a short break with his family. But the 66-year-old executive says he was already planning to hand over the CKE job to a new leader. Puzder was CEO of the fast-food chain since 2000.

“I expressed my desire to have CKE plan for succession approximately a year ago,” Puzder said in a statement on Tuesday.

Marker will be faced with trying to improve revenue growth at Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s amid a broader restaurant-industry slowdown. In 2015, Carl’s Jr. sales rose just 0.6 percent in the U.S., while Hardee’s fared better with a 3.9 percent gain, according to researcher Technomic.

Marker, who hails from New Zealand, is credited with overseeing a turnaround of the U.S. KFC business. He managed a chain with more than $4.2 billion in sales and 4,200 restaurants.

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