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Famous Dave's CEO Resigns After 16 Months

Former McDonald's executive Ed Rensi, who joined the Famous Dave’s board a month ago, will lead the company on an interim basis; he succeeds John Gilbert, who resigned after roughly 16 months in the job.

Famous Dave's CEO Resigns After 16 Months

Famous Dave’s of America, Inc., said Monday that its CEO has resigned and will be replaced on an interim basis by a board director—marking the latest in a series of senior-level changes at the Minnetonka-based barbeque restaurant chain.

Ed Rensi, who joined Famous Dave’s board just one month ago, succeeds John Gilbert, who became chief executive roughly a year and a half ago.

In its announcement, Famous Dave’s said only that Gilbert “resigned,” and Rensi’s appointment is effective immediately.

Gilbert, the former CEO of Shelburne, Vermont-based e-commerce retailer Vermont Teddy Bear Company, took the reins at Famous Dave’s in October 2012 as part of a larger shuffle of the company’s C-suite. He replaced Christopher O’Donnell, the former CEO who shifted into the roles of president and chief operating officer.

At the time, a company spokesperson characterized the move as an opportunity to leverage the different strengths of O’Donnell, who would focus on operations, and Gilbert, who would focus on company growth.

And Famous Dave's has made other personnel changes as well. Last May, the company reportedly cut a dozen upper-management positions in order to reduce expenses.

The company will now be led, on an interim basis, by Rensi, who spent most of his career at McDonald’s, where he served as president and CEO of the company’s U.S. operations between 1991 and 1997. He also founded the Tom & Eddies restaurant chain and started and owned Team Rensi Motorsports, which competed in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, according to Famous Dave’s.

Rensi said in a statement that he is “delighted to lead Famous Dave’s for the foreseeable future,” adding that the company’s founder, Dave Anderson, has been “a professional friend of mine for a long time.”

Famous Dave’s announced its leadership changes shortly before the stock market opened Monday. The company’s shares were trading up roughly 10 percent at $19.00 by mid-morning.

The company is holding a conference call Thursday to discuss its latest financial results in detail, although Chairman Dean Riesen said in a Monday statement that its fiscal-year revenue is expected to total $155.4 million, up about $444,000. But fourth-quarter "comparable sales"—or sales at company-owned restaurants that have been open for at least two years—decreased 2.6 percent. That would mark an improvement, however, over the 6 percent decrease seen in last year's fourth quarter.

“On behalf of the board, I appreciate that Mr. Rensi has stepped in to bring his years of effective restaurant management and franchisor expertise to serve as interim CEO during this important transition period for Famous Dave’s of America,” Riesen said in a statement.

Famous Dave's, one of Minnesota's 60 largest public companies based on revenue, has been expanding its footprint, and the company currently owns 54 locations and has 142 franchise restaurants in 34 states, Puerto Rico, and in one Canadian province.

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