Dunkin' Donuts Taps Ex-Papa John's President as CEO

Nigel Travis Credited With Making Pizza Chain a Strong Player in Competitive Category

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Dunkin' Donuts will be under new leadership in 2009, as longtime CEO Jon Luther steps aside. Nigel Travis, who departed Papa John's as president last week, becomes CEO of Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin-Robbins effective Jan. 9.

Nigel Travis
Nigel Travis
According to the company, Mr. Luther, 65, had been working with Dunkin's board to find a replacement since early this year. He will remain as chairman of the board, a position he assumed in 2006. Mr. Luther served as CEO for six years.

Aggressive leadership
"They're looking for more aggressive leadership in these challenging times," said Darren Tristano, exec VP of Technomic. "They're looking for someone with proven success and experience in growing a brand."

Mr. Travis, 58, who had been with Papa John's since 2005, is credited with building the company's online business, growing its international presence and spearheading new-product rollouts like Papa's pan pizza. Prior to Papa John's, he was at Blockbuster from 1994 to 2004, eventually serving as the company's president. At Blockbuster, Mr. Travis helped build an international franchise network in 15 countries and transitioned the company into other forms of entertainment such as video games. He is also a Burger King alum. As managing director-Europe, Middle East and Africa, he is credited with turning the regions' sales around.

Mr. Tristano said that Papa John's No. 3 position in the pizza industry is impressive, given big-name competitors Pizza Hut and Domino's. "If you look at pizza, it's absolutely a very competitive environment," he said. "The growth Papa John's has had, not just because of the quality, but their success, is something to look at and study."

Mr. Travis' international experience could also come in handy as Dunkin' expands its global presence. "Nigel's ability to develop strong franchisee networks, his understanding of the intensely competitive global marketplace, and his innovative, results-oriented style will build on the powerful momentum already in place at our Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin-Robbins brands," Mr. Luther said.

In growth mode
The leadership comes at a time when the company is expanding its presence on the West Coast and in the Southwestern U.S., and sharpening its characteristically quirky marketing. Dunkin' recently launched an ad campaign from Interpublic Group of Cos.' Hill Holliday, Boston, touting the results of an "independent taste test." At the time, Dunkin's chief branding officer, Frances Allen, said the current economic environment called for "sharper messaging."

At Dunkin', Mr. Travis will have his hands full, because the chain is steeped in a brutal coffee war. Starbucks has begun its own version of discounting, and Subway will introduce the Seattle's Best Coffee brand into nearly 2,000 locations in January. McDonald's franchisees are diligently working to complete the chain's ambitious McCafe rollout, and national advertising is expected by mid-2009.

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