THE COLONY, Texas — Pizza Inn appointed Tim Taft, 46, its new president and chief executive officer on March 31. He replaces interim CEO Robert Page and, according to a news release, will assume his duties immediately.
Taft most recently served as president and COO of Whataburger, Inc., a 645-unit quick-serve chain based in Corpus Christi, Texas. While at Whataburger, he was largely credited with leading the regional brand's turnaround that is now in its 47th consecutive quarter of same-store sales increases.
"Tim is exactly what Pizza Inn needs right now," said Mark Schwarz, board chairman at Pizza Inn, Inc. "He has clearly demonstrated his expertise in building a brand by overcoming the same set of challenges that Pizza Inn faces today. Our franchise partners, support team members and shareholders will welcome his operational experience and leadership qualities."
Despite its ongoing struggles with sagging sales and shrinking unit counts, Taft said the 400-unit pizza chain has in place the critical components necessary — loyal customers and dedicated franchisees — to become a great brand again. "Although much work lies ahead, we have an opportunity to do something special here. It's time to get started."
According to a report in the Dallas Morning News, Taft will be paid $1 for his first year's service. The minor amount stands in stark contrast to the $1.1 million paid in 2003 to former CEO and president Ronald Parker, who was ousted in 2004.
For nearly two years Pizza Inn has been plagued by a board room battle between its largest shareholder and former and present top executives. Parker's December termination followed the June resignation of vice president and chief legal counsel Keith Clark. The exit of both men is directly tied to a long-running dispute over the allocation of seats on the company's board of directors and labor contracts constructed by Parker, Clark and two other Pizza Inn officials. The quartet's contracts were rewritten in 2002 to state that a total of $7.4 million would be paid to the men should Pizza Inn undergo a change of control on its board. Parker's share alone would be $5.4 million.
In April of 2004, the company's lawyers determined no change of control had occurred, and that none of the four would receive the stipulated payments.
Pizza Inn is suing Parker for his role in the writing of the contracts, and it is in arbitration with Clark, who continues to seek his $762,000 change of control payout.