Time at the top of Famous Dave’s of America Inc. can be measured in months, not years.
The barbecue restaurant chain late Wednesday said that Mike Lister, a former operations executive who now owns several franchises, will become chief executive, succeeding Adam Wright, who took the job 10 months ago.
The two CEOs before Wright, Ed Rensi and John Gilbert, each lasted less than 18 months at the Minnetonka-based company. Lister becomes the company’s fourth leader in four years and sixth since 2008.
Lister, 56, owns five Famous Dave’s outlets in Tennessee and served as senior vice president of operations from 1997 to 2001.
He will also hold the title of chief operating officer.
“I have a vested interest as a franchisee and a significant interest in the brand,” Lister said. “I know the business about as intimately as Dave [Anderson, the founder].”
Under Wright’s tenure, Famous Dave’s continued to struggle with its brand and sales. Sales fell 14 percent in the second quarter. The stock price has fallen from around $12 a share a year ago to $5.28 on Wednesday.
Wright, who resigned as CEO and from the board of directors Wednesday, said in an e-mail, “During my tenure I believe we have positioned the company for a positive turnaround.”
He focused on several priorities, including recruiting founder Anderson back to the company.
Anderson, who will remain as a consultant under contract with Famous Dave’s, said he has been a fan of Lister. “He brings a unique perspective, as he’s served as both a corporate executive and franchise owner.”
Board representatives indicated their confidence in Lister with a four-year contract. The two previous chief executives had two-year contracts. “The board wanted someone with deep restaurant experience, someone with innate management and leadership capabilities,” said Dexter Newman, its chief financial officer.
Except for Anderson, who was CEO from its start in 1994 until early 1997, no top executive at Famous Dave’s has come from within the company.
Famous Dave’s has 139 locations in 32 states and international cities.