Famous Dave’s Chairman Abruptly Resigns Amid Turnover

Dean Riesen left the company on Friday after serving as a board director since 2003 and chairman since 2011.

Famous Dave’s of America announced Monday that its chairman, Dean Riesen, has resigned after more than a decade on the company’s board of directors—marking the latest in a long series of leadership changes at the Minnetonka-based barbecue chain.

The company did not specify the reason for his abrupt departure, and a successor was not immediately named.

“I would like to thank Dean for his contributions to Famous Dave’s,” said Ed Rensi, who recently became the company’s permanent CEO after a stint as interim CEO. “We have a strong management team and a new board in place dedicated to serving our customers the country’s best BBQ, supporting our franchisees’ growth and profitability, and creating value for our shareholders.”

Late last month, the company replaced its chief financial officer, Diana Purcel, who had held the position since 2003. At the same time, the company said two of its board members were resigning—Richard Monfort and Lisa Kro, who served on the board since 1996 and 2009, respectively.

Executive-level turmoil is nothing new for Famous Dave’s. Since its founding in 1994, the restaurant chain has burned through seven different CEOs, which means the average chief executive has lasted less than three years. The company’s most recent CEO turnover came when Gilbert resigned after just 16 months in the slot.

Gilbert became CEO in 2012, displacing Christopher O’Donnell—who holds the record for longest tenure, at four years and one month. While Gilbert left of his own accord, O’Donnell was relieved of his duties.

Prior to Riesen’s resignation, Twin Cities Business examined Famous Dave’s continuous top-level turnover.