Burger King Corp. named a former president of Continental Airlines to be its new chief executive Tuesday as the chain struggles to keep its No. 2 position among fast-food restaurants.
Greg Brenneman, 42, is currently chairman and CEO of a Houston-based private equity firm, TurnWorks Inc. He will join Burger King on Aug. 1 and will become the chain's 10th CEO in 15 years.
Brenneman replaces Brad Blum, who resigned July 2 after about 18 months on the job during a period of mostly declining sales. Brenneman has previously worked as CEO of PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting and as president and chief operating officer of Continental.
"Greg will provide both the strategic direction and hands-on execution the company needs," Burger King's board of directors said in a written statement.
"Burger King Corporation is an international company with a great brand, a proud past and an exciting future," Brenneman said in a statement.
Brenneman has long ties to two of Burger King's investment group owners: Texas Pacific Group and Bain Capital.
Texas Pacific chairman David Bonderman, who was on Continental's board of directors, helped get Brenneman into the No. 2 spot at the then-struggling air carrier. Brenneman and Continental CEO Gordon Bethune helped bring the airline back to profitability after it had posted losses for 16 consecutive years.
Brenneman was at Continental from 1994 to 2001. Before that, Brenneman became a partner at Bain at age 31 and focused on corporate turnarounds while there.
Burger King has previously turned to a former airline executive to improve its fortunes with lackluster results. John Dasburg, former head of Northwest Airlines, was the chain's chairman, chief executive and president for less than two years when Blum took over in January 2003.
Both Blum and Dasburg oversaw the company as it experienced disappointing sales and declining market share. It has lost ground to the biggest fast-food chain, McDonald's Corp., and No. 3 Wendy's is fast on its trail.
Burger King's U.S. sales dropped 5 percent to $7.9 billion last year, according to research firm Technomic Inc. Its market share slid from 17 percent to 15.6 percent, with Wendy's inching up to 14.5 percent from 14 percent. McDonald's had 43.6 percent.
But the chain was showing signs recently that sales were picking up. The company reported that U.S. same-store sales had climbed for five straight months through June after nearly two years of declines. Analysts say that may just be a sign of how weak sales were in the past.
Analysts also say Burger King has had problems with its marketing, which hasn't lured in enough customers. The company has had five different advertising agencies since 2001 and franchisees have been impatient with the weak sales.
"The trouble is if you keep changing stuff and it looks like the person at the helm is taking different courses every quarter, it's kind of difficult to get behind them," said Carl Sibilski, a fast-food industry analyst with Morningstar in Chicago.