AMC Entertainment CEO Gerry Lopez To Leave For “Another Opportunity”

The No. 2 theater chain’s board named CFO Craig Ramsey as interim CEO, and formed a Search Committee to find a permanent replacement for Gerry Lopez when he steps down on August 6 for “another opportunity,” it says this morning.

AMC Entertainment shares opened down about 1.2% after the announcement.

Starbucks or Yum! Brands (which owns KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell) are among the “most likely” landing places for Lopez, Stifel Research’s Benjamin Mogil says. Lopez was an EVP at Starbucks before he joined AMC in 2009.

Lopez led AMC through its 2012 acquisition by China’s Wanda Group and 2013 IPO, and drove its industry-changing initiative to rip out conventional seats in many venues and replace them with fewer plush recliners that also come with higher ticket prices. Most other large exhibition chains, including industry leader Regal, now are following suit.

The outspoken CEO, who stood out in an industry where execs tend to be tight-lipped, says that he plans to “bring my passion for strategic refocus to another industry, where guest focus and strategic redeployment are equally important.”

AMC shares have appreciated 46% over the last 12 months, and 67% over the last five years, well ahead of the benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500. The rise in shareholder value and customer satisfaction scores suggest him that “the strategic and financial foundation is in place for continued success well into the future.”

He told the board on Friday about his plan to leave.

“Gerry took on the role of AMC’s CEO at a critical point in our history six years ago when AMC was in need of a strategic refocus,” Audit Committee Chairman Lloyd Hill says. “Gerry’s dynamic leadership and passion were catalysts in driving significant improvement in both our revenue and operating earnings, and he has been instrumental in developing the innovative culture and guest experience leadership strategy that has elevated AMC as an industry leader.”

Ramsey, who’s  63, has been with AMC since 1995 and became CFO in 2002.

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