Quiznos Chief Becoming Fulltime Investor

Greg Brenneman has long been the CEO-for-hire who PE firms call when they have a big investment in need of new leadership. No he’s moving fulltime over to the buy-side, as the new chairman of CCMP Capital Partners.

Brenneman’s first PE-backed gig was as president and COO of Continental Airlines, which was the first deal ever done by TPG Capital (then Texas Pacific Group). He later became CEO of PwC Consulting, which needed to divorce its accounting and consulting businesses in the aftermath of Enron. He ultimately sold off PwC consulting to IBM for $3.5 billion, before taking over as head of PE-backed Burger King in August 2004. The fast-food chain filed for an IPO about a year later, but Brenneman bailed before it priced. Not long after, he was brought in by CCMP Capital to run its newly-acquired Quiznos sandwich chain.

The Burger King and Quiznos situations have a big similarity, in that Brenneman didn’t last even two years at either one. Moreover, in both cases he said the short-term nature of his assignment was always understood by the firm’s owners. There has been some dispute as to the Burger King timing, but it seems clear that CCMP always expected him to leave Quiznos. It had installed one of its partners – Dave Deno – as company president shortly after Brenneman came on, and he’ll be promoted to CEO.

I asked Brenneman if this hire indicates that the firm plans to increase its focus on turnaround opportunities. They each replied with different version of “no.”

“I got branded more of a turnaround guy by the press than by what I actually was doing,” Brenneman says. “The real trick at companies like Continental is not only a transformation, but also figuring out how to grow the transformed business.” [Ed note: We media folks may have talked up his turnaround cred, but he didn’t help matters by running a consultancy called TurnWorks]

Instead, Brenneman will be the senior operating guy that CCMP feels it’s been missing. He also will be more involved in investment activities than was his predecessor Jeff Walker, the firm’s founder whose final few months as chairman were more focused on high-level strategy and relationships. Walker is now spending most of his time in the non-profit sector, but remains a limited partner in CCMP’s current $3.4 billion fund.