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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — On May 5, Mrs. Fields announced the appointment of former Starbucks Corp. executive Timothy Casey as its CEO and President.Casey will head up Mrs. Fields Original Cookies, Inc., the holding company of Mrs. Fields Famous Brands LLC, which in turn is the franching parent of Mrs. Fields Cookies, with its 1,200 franchises, and frozen yogurt chain TCBY. He replaces co-CEOs Michael Ward and John Lauck.
With a 30-year career in the food and beverage industry, Casey has been chief brand officer, president, chief operating officer and vice president with organizations such as Starbucks, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and Bakers Square Restaurants.
"Tim is a forward-looking leader, always thinking about what will be important to the consumer tomorrow and what untapped assets these brands have that will strengthen consumer engagement and brand loyalty," explains Sid Feltenstein, chairman of Mrs. Fields Famous Brands.
On May 5 Blue MauMau posed several questions to Mr. Casey regarding his new appointment and the direction of Mrs. Fields. Today Mr. Casey emailed his reponse.
BMM: What happened to the last CEO? The last I heard, Michael Ward and John Lauck were appointed Co-CEOs of Mrs. Fields Brands (holding company for Mrs. Fields Original Cookies and TCBY franchise chains) in 2008. That was after chief legal officer Ward was appointed as interim CEO.
Casey: Most recently, we operated under a Co-CEO model which served us well; however, we believe the company and its individual brands, are in strong position to scale nationally and internationally, leveraging the entire infrastructure of the combined organization. Therefore, we feel strongly that one CEO, an experienced CEO who understands consumer trends, brand loyalty, operations, product quality and marketing, offers us the most effective way to shepherd all of our resources to own brand relevance in our respective categories. Michael Ward, who most recently was Co-CEO of TCBY and Chief Legal Counsel for all brands, will continue in the role as Chief Legal Counsel as well President, Mrs. Fields/TCBY Franchising and overseas international operations. John Lauck, former Co-CEO of Mrs. Fields, has left the company to pursue other opportunities.
BMM: Mrs. Fields Brands had a high debt load, probably from a whole business securitization effort that it went through years ago. What is the company's position now in regard to the high interest payments on that high debt load?
Casey: As I am just entering my first few weeks with Mrs. Fields Famous Brands, I am continually working on getting up to speed on various aspects of the company. I don't feel like I can answer this question, at this time, as I am not yet fully versed in the situation.
BMM: What is in the future for Mrs. Fields Brands?
Casey: We plan to continue brand excellence with a focus on product quality and innovation. These brands have very strong research and development teams, and we plan to utilize this important part of the business to always stay one step ahead of the competition. My role, with our dedicated and passionate franchisees and talented management team, is to lead the next growth stage by bringing to market the full extent of our competitive advantages in product quality, R&D innovation, brand heritage, operational excellence and the guest experience.
BMM: What has been your past experience with franchisees? What are the challenges of Mrs. Fields' and TCBY"s franchisees? How do you plan to engage them in the challenges ahead?
Casey: I have been working with franchisees since the beginning of my career in 1979. What I love about a franchise system is that the franchisees believe enough in the brand to have invested in it and its leadership. Our mutual goal is to be profitable and successful. I am looking forward to working with the franchisees to understand their needs to drive the brands and the business forward. Like with most businesses, the ongoing challenge is to remain relevant with the guests, and to create and communicate points of differentiation that align with their needs. I, along with the leadership team at Mrs Fields Famous Brands, will work with the franchisees to positively drive profitable sales and the guest experience with a passionate focus on the customer.