Taco Bell Names Next CEO: Brian Niccol, Marketing Chief for Doritos Tacos Launch

Fills Role Vacated By Greg Creed, Who Moves to CEO at Yum Brands

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Brian Niccol
Brian Niccol

Taco Bell has promoted Brian Niccol, its president and former chief marketing and innovation officer, to CEO.

The move comes about three weeks after Taco Bell CEO Greg Creed was elevated to CEO of parent company, Yum Brands, effective in January. Mr. Niccol will also assume his new role at the beginning of 2015.

As CEO of Taco Bell, Mr. Niccol will be responsible for driving overall brand strategy and performance of the business in the U.S. and internationally, the company said. Part of that responsibility will be making good on the company's goal of doubling system sales to $14 billion by 2022 and opening 2,000 new restaurants, a strategy that includes focusing on organic growth through innovation, expanding sales at various times of the day, restaurant development and operations.

Mr. Niccol was marketing chief at Taco Bell as the chain introduced its more upscale product line, the Cantina Menu, as well as its massive Doritos Locos Taco line.

"Brian has extraordinary leadership skills that make him the ideal candidate for our next CEO," said Mr. Creed in a statement. "He is a dynamic leader who genuinely cares about this brand, its people and the culture of the organization. He has a proven track record and the necessary vision to deliver our growth objectives, having overseen multiple breakthrough initiatives including the brand's game-changing breakfast launch earlier this year."

Mr. Niccol's relatively brief term as president now appears to have be part of some succession planning at Yum. Just a year ago, Mr. Niccol was named president after serving as Taco Bell's chief marketing and innovation officer since 2011. Chris Brandt, a Taco Bell marketing executive, succeeded him as the chain's chief marketing officer. The company does not plan to fill the president's post.

Prior to his marketing role at Taco Bell, Mr. Niccol was general manager at sibling brand Pizza Hut and its CMO before that.

In March, Taco Bell introduced a breakfast menu, its largest menu addition and marketing push to date. In the first set of ads, the chain enlisted an army of real-life Ronald McDonald's to profess their love for Taco Bell breakfast. Subsequent TV spots have all gone directly against McDonald's, painting its patrons and signature breakfast item, the Egg McMuffin, as hopelessly outdated.

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