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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Car repair franchising conglomerate Driven Brands announced Friday that its 64-year old CEO Ken Walker will retire July 6. It has appointed an executive vice president of Burger King, Jonathan Fitzpatrick, to replace him as CEO.
Driven Brands is the parent of franchisors Maaco Collision Repair & Auto Painting, Meineke Car Care Centers, Econo Lube N' Tune, and other firms in the automotive aftermarket.
Soon-to-be retired chairman Walker said: "After 16 exciting and wonderfully fulfilling years leading first Meineke then Driven Brands, there comes a time for the next stage in both an individual's as well as a company's life."
Chris Schmitz, chairman of independent franchisee group, Meineke Dealers Association, states: "It was with great sadness that I received the news Friday of the retirement from Driven Brands of its CEO, Ken Walker." Schmitz describes how Mr. Walker took charge of the Meineke brand at one of the most contentious times in its history between franchisor and franchise owners. "His diligence, honesty, and commitment to the franchisor/franchisee relationship propelled Meineke from the brink of dissolution to the prominent position in the automotive aftermarket it enjoys today," states the representative for franchise owners. "A true leader, Mr. Walker always took time to listen to his franchisees and remarked on many occasions as to how much he believed the Meineke Dealers Association brought tremendous added value to the franchise system. On a personal note, I feel blessed to have known Ken as both a businessman and a friend, and the time he has spent mentoring me will never be forgotten. He is simply one of the classiest people I have ever had the pleasure to meet."
New CEO and president Fitzpatrick knows food operations and working with franchises. He has 15 years of experience in franchising and global operations, most recently as executive vice president: chief brand and operations officer of Burger King, where he has worked since 2005. He has held a variety of senior executive positions within Burger King covering a wide array of responsibilities ranging from head of Central European Operations and SVP of Franchise Development in North America to VP of Information Technology. Fitzpatrick holds both Bachelor's and Graduate degrees from the University College Dublin, Ireland.
"We are pleased to welcome Jonathan as the new CEO of Driven Brands. He is an accomplished executive whose experience and expertise at building global businesses will be invaluable to the continued success of this dynamic company," said Ira D. Kleinman, Senior Managing Director of Harvest Partners, the private equity firm that acquired Driven Brands in December 2011.
The independent dealers association chair Schmitz declared, "While we have yet to formally meet with Ken Walker's successor, we look forward as an organization to working directly with new CEO Jonathan Fitzpatrick on the betterment of the Meineke franchise system for all concerned, and maintaining the tremendous spirit of collaboration that has been fostered over the last 16 years."