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Shakeup continues at Famous Dave's; chairman is out


The chairman of the Famous Dave's restaurant chain, Dean Riesen, resigned abruptly Friday after three years in that position. It's another in a string of leadership changes that have taken place recently at the Minnetonka-based restaurant chain, the Business Journal reports.

Riesen has been on the company's board of directors since 2003, and has been chairman since 2011.

Famous Dave's issued a brief statement Monday announcing Riesen's departure. It did not give any reasons for the move, nor did it name a replacement.

"I would like to thank Dean for his contributions to Famous Dave's," CEO Ed Rensi said in the statement. "Famous Dave's future has never been brighter. We have a strong management team and a new board in place dedicated to serving our customers the country's best BBQ, supporting our franchisees' growth and profitability, and creating value for our shareholders."

The company has been shaking up its leadership team for months after activist investors forced their way in, according to the Business Journal.

Riesen was chairman when the board hired John Gilbert as CEO in October 2012, hoping he could boost the company's performance. But Gilbert abruptly resigned in February, and was replaced by Ed Rensi, a former executive with McDonald’s.

Other top officials who've left Famous Dave's recently are chief operating officer Christopher O'Donnell, the CEO before Gilbert was hired, and chief financial officer Diana Purcel.

According to the Star Tribune, the potential activist shareholders have increased their holdings of Famous Dave's stock over the past year or so. Pleasant Lake Partners is the largest with a 13 percent stake in the company. Pleasant Lake founder Jonathan Lennon was named to the Famous Dave’s board last month, the newspaper reports.

Another activist investor, Patrick Walsh of the Chicago-based PW Group, was named to the board a year ago. His company owns about 10 percent of Famous Dave's outstanding stock, according to the Business Journal.

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