The Associated Press May 25, 2011, 1:08PM ET

Tim Hortons CEO leaves abruptly

The CEO of Tim Hortons Inc., Canada's largest fast-food chain, has abruptly left the company.

In a statement Wednesday, the company said that Don Schroeder's departure was the result of "an extended succession planning process." But the company didn't offer further explanation or have a new CEO lined up.

Executive Chairman Paul House, who was CEO for about two years until Schroeder took over in 2008, will serve as interim CEO until the board decides on a replacement.

The board said it would consider internal and external candidates but didn't give a time frame, except to say it would choose a new CEO "as soon as practical."

Schroeder and House are both Tim Hortons veterans, each with at least 20 years at the chain. At the annual shareholder meeting this month, both were re-elected to the board with more than 99 percent support. Schroeder is in his mid-60s. House is about three years older than Schroeder.

When Schroeder took over as CEO, House was named executive chairman of the board, and Schroeder continued to report to him. At the time, the company said the change was House's idea because he wanted to focus more on company strategy and relationships with franchisees. It also said that Schroeder had "the ideal breadth of strategic leadership skills, knowledge of the sector and Tim Hortons business."

This month, the company reported a 10 percent increase in first-quarter revenue and a 2 percent increase in net income. The company has been opening new restaurants in parts of Canada and the U.S. and plans to open locations in the Middle East. And though it's best best known for coffee and doughnuts, it is also revamping its menu, testing new products like fruit smoothies and oatmeal.

In a statement, House said that Schroeder had made "significant contributions" to the company and thanked him for his work, "although a transitional arrangement could not be reached."

The board's lead director, Frank Iacobucci, said the board had "been engaged in a comprehensive succession planning and review process" related to strategy planning.

"With a solid strategic foundation in place, the board has made the determination that the current timing under all circumstances is best-suited to transition CEO leadership," Iacobucci said.


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