Steve Ells Stepping Down, Chipotle Hunts for New CEO


Chipotle announced that Steve Ells would be exiting his role as chairman and CEO, becoming executive chairman when the company can find a replacement for the man who founded the brand back in 1993.

“Simply put, we need to execute better to ensure our future success. The Board and I are committed to bringing in an experienced leader with a passion for driving excellence across every aspect of our business, including the customer experience, operations, marketing, technology, food safety, and training,” said Ells in a press release

The search will be done by Spencer Stuart, an executive search company tapped by companies like Yahoo, Twitter, General Motors AIG and Fannie May.

Few would say Ells wasn’t a visionary leader, but after a food-safety crisis sent the company into a tailspin, many started calling for him to step aside for the next phase for chipotle.

It may take a very special skill set. Beyond the “turnaround expertise” the brand noted, the new leader must also mesh with two very seasoned C-suite executives: CFO Jack Hartung and CMO Mark Crumpacker who both joined the company 15 years ago. 

Ells said the move would allow him to focus on innovation and let a new leader focus on pivoting into a changing restaurant industry.

“Bringing in a new CEO is the right thing to do for all our stakeholders. It will allow me to focus on my strengths, which include bringing innovation to the way we source and prepare our food,” said Ells. “Chipotle has vast unrealized potential. As we work hard to restore our brand, I believe we can capitalize on opportunities, including in areas such as the digital experience, menu innovation, delivery, catering, and domestic and international expansion, to deliver significant growth.”

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