Potbelly CEO Aylwin Lewis leaves

  • Signs for push-out forces
  • After around nine years on the job
  • Praise and thanks for Lewis
  • Search for a successor
  • Lewis said 72 words

(exechange) — Chicago, Illinois, May 30, 2017 — This news came the day after Memorial Day. Aylwin Lewis, chief executive of Potbelly, leaves. As announced by Potbelly Corporation in a news release and in a regulatory filing published on Tuesday, May 30, 2017, Aylwin B. Lewis leaves the post as Chief Executive Officer at the restaurant chain in a surprising move after around nine years on the job, effective August 08, 2017.

Potbelly will undertake a search for a successor.

No reason given

In the announcement, Potbelly did not explicitly explain the reason for Lewis’ move, opening the door for speculation.

Precise information about the future plans of Lewis was not immediately available.


Potbelly said: “Aylwin Lewis, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, will be leaving Potbelly later this year. After leading Potbelly for nine years Mr. Lewis will depart as CEO and a member of its Board of Directors on August 8, 2017.”

“Not related to any disagreement”

“Mr. Lewis’ departure from Potbelly is not related to any disagreement with Potbelly or with Potbelly’s operations, policies or practices,” Potbelly said.

It is a phrase that may be intended to prevent false rumors. It may also fuel further speculation and raise more questions than it answers. Such a phrase should be read very carefully. The exact wording may be insightful.

Share price decline

The change follows a sharp decline in the share price of Potbelly Corporation since September 2013.

Renaissance Technologies holds 8.14 percent stake

Renaissance Technologies, LLC reported an 8.14 percent stake in Potbelly Corporation as of March 30, 2017. Renaissance Technologies is a New York-based American investment management firm.

On the job as CEO since 2008

Lewis has been Chief Executive Officer and President at Potbelly Corporation since June 2008.

Lewis has served as the Company’s Chairman since October 2013.

Lewis has over 30 years of restaurant and retail experience, and is a member of the Board of Directors of The Walt Disney Company serving since 2004, and the Board of Directors of Marriott International serving since September 2016.

He is also on the Board of Directors at the University of Houston Bauer College of Business and serves as a trustee of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

He previously served on the Starwood Hotels and Resorts Board from 2013-2016 and the Halliburton Board from 2001-2005.

Prior to Potbelly, Lewis served as Chief Executive Officer and President of Sears Holdings Corporation.

Prior to that, Lewis was President of Sears Holdings and Chief Executive Officer of KMart and Sears Retail following Sears’ acquisition of KMart Holding Corporation in 2005.

Lewis had been President and Chief Executive Officer of KMart since October 2004 until that acquisition.

From January 2003 to October 2004, he was President, Chief Multi-Branding and Operating Officer of Yum! Brands, Inc. and served as Chief Operating Officer of Yum! Brands from December 1999 to January 2003.

Lewis holds the following academic degrees: BA in English (’76), BS in Hotel and Restaurant Management (’76), and an MBA (’90)—all from the University of Houston.

He also received a master’s degree from Houston Baptist University.


As a general rule, when a top leader announces to step aside with no successor in place, it is a sign that the change was unexpected and too early.

Signs for push-out forces

It is not completely certain what forces eventually triggered Aylwin Lewis’ move.

The Push-out Score™ determined by exechange suggests that push-out forces may have contributed to the management change.

Read the full story in the exechange report 23.2017 ($).