BURGER KING'S NEW PRESIDENT IS OUT

Robert Nilsen Leaves Abruptly After 13 Months

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Less than a month after abruptly switching ad agencies, Burger King Corp.'s president resigned yesterday after 13 months on the job.
Introduced as the company's new marketing slogan in June, 2003, 'The Fire's Ready' was widely acknowledged as a flop by year's end.
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Brad Blum, the No. 2 burger chains' CEO, announced the move by Robert Nilsen "with mixed emotions" in a company wide voice-mail message. He thanked Mr. Nilsen for his contributions and said he would announce a new operations leadership structure later in the week. The Miami Herald first reported the move.

Joined in January 2003
Mr. Nilsen joined Burger King in January 2003 as part of Mr. Blum's new management team. Among the key initiatives Mr. Nilsen led at Burger King was establishing an operations leadership team in May, then in August restructuring the company's operating divisions into nine units, with additional focus on training and coaching franchisees and employees.

Last month when Burger King replaced WPP Group's Y&R Advertising, New York, with MDC Partners' Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Miami, executives said the chain was refocusing on its core customers and was ready to execute on the training it launched late last year. Burger King soon will upgrade its Whopper sandwich, roll out new salads, a new fried chicken sandwich called TenderCrisp and an Angus Steakburger.

At the time, executives close to the company said the Y&R relationship wasn't working and that Crispin Porter had nailed a new way to communicate Burger King's customer proposition. Industry observers balked at the company's decision to hire a new agency, instead suggesting the chain improve on its operations.

Sales down systemwide
Franchisees estimated that same-store sales had dropped 8% systemwide under Mr. Blum. Meanwhile, rivals McDonald's Corp. and Wendy's have taken share from Burger King and have posted high single-digit and double-digit same-store sales gains. A company spokesman declined to comment further, saying it is a private company and does not release figures.

Burger King is owned by a group of equity investors led by Texas Pacific Group.

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