No. 2 exec to depart Famous Dave's

  • Article by: MIKE HUGHLETT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 4, 2014 - 8:39 PM

After the sudden departure of its CEO last month, Minnetonka-based Famous Dave's said its president, longtime executive Christopher O'Donnell, will also leave the company. 2012 file photo.

Photo: Courtney Perry, Special to the Star Tribune

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Turmoil in the executive suite at Famous Dave’s of America is continuing with the exit of Christopher O’Donnell, president and chief operating officer.

O’Donnell, former chief executive of the barbecue restaurant company, was notified Monday that his employment will end March 31, according to a filing Famous Dave’s made with securities regulators Tuesday. Famous Dave’s did not return a call seeking comment.

O’Donnell’s departure comes about three weeks after Famous Dave’s most recent CEO, John Gilbert, resigned with no explanation.

Gilbert was succeeded on an interim basis by Ed Rensi, a recently appointed Famous Dave’s board member and former high-ranking McDonald’s executive. The company began a search for a permanent CEO but its nonexecutive chairman, Dean Riesen, said last month, “We are under no pressure since we have such a talented leader with Ed.”

O’Donnell led Famous Dave’s as CEO from 2008 until he was replaced by Gilbert in October 2012. In an unusual move, O’Donnell remained with the Minnetonka-based company as its president and chief operating officer.

O’Donnell, who’s spent his career in the restaurant business, has been with Famous Dave’s about 16 years. He started at the company as vice president of teaching and learning.

Famous Dave’s is trying to reignite growth. Sales, which totaled $155 million in 2013, have been in a holding pattern for the past few years. Meanwhile, since late 2012, potential activist investors have been building stakes in Dave’s, including Chicago-based PW Partners Atlas Fund and New York-based Pleasant Lake Partners.

Famous Dave’s stock closed at $25.12, up 37 cents or 1.5 percent on a day the broad market was up 1.5 percent as measured by the S&P 500.

Mike Hughlett • 612-673-7003

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