'My heart isn't in it anymore': Longtime Chipotle comms exec Chris Arnold exits

Arnold guided Chipotle's crisis comeback following its 2015 e. Coli outbreak.

DENVER: Chris Arnold, who has served as Chipotle Mexican Grill’s PR director since 2003, has exited the company.

Arnold’s last day at Chipotle was June 1.

"My most immediate plan is to enjoy a summer off," he said. "I’ll consider other options after a little break."

Chipotle representatives were not immediately available for comment.

In a memo obtained by PRWeek, Arnold wrote that, after 15 years, his passion for the brand was gone.

"With new leadership now in place at the company and a stated commitment to reinvigorate the love for the Chipotle brand our customers held at the very best of times, I realize it’s not only their passion that has been dampened, but also my own," Arnold said in the memo. "The issues and challenges we have faced over the last couple of years have lessened the degree to which my heart is in it anymore, so I have decided it’s time for me to go and am leaving my post at Chipotle."

In March, Brian Niccol became the chain’s CEO, a role he previously held at Taco Bell. Niccol succeeded Steve Ells in the role.

Last year, Chipotle hired Laurie Schalow as chief communications officer, a newly created role at the company. When she was hired, she began reporting to Ells, founder, chairman, and CEO. Arnold began reporting to Scharlow at the time after previously reporting to CMO Mark Crumpacker.

Chipotle hired Chris Brandt as CMO in April, replacing Crumpacker, who resigned earlier this year. Crumpacker was placed on leave for a cocaine arrest in 2016 but later returned to his position.  

Arnold guided Chipotle’s crisis comeback after the chain temporarily closed dozens of locations around the country in response to an e. Coli outbreak in late 2015. Federal officials declared the outbreak over in February 2016, but not before the company's reputation and share price took a hit.

Chipotle saw a 13% drop in sales for 2016 — its first annual decline since it went public more than a decade ago. The brand addressed the matter through visible changes to food safety systems and an emphasis on transparency.

Chipotle brought on Burson-Marsteller as its U.S. AOR in March 2016 as it sought to recover from the e. Coli crisis. It split with previous AOR Edelman the previous fall.

"I have been here to experience the very best of times and the most difficult," said Arnold, in the memo. "Through it all, I have had the opportunity to work with, and meet some of the best, brightest, funniest, and most committed and inspirational people I have ever encountered."

In late May, Chipotle said it is closing its Denver headquarters to move to Newport Beach, California, consolidating functions from Denver and its offices in Columbus, Ohio. The company is also closing offices in New York. The move will affect 400 employees in Denver and New York this year; some staffers will be offered relocation, while others will receive retention packages.

The company reported net income of $59.4 million on $1.1 billion in revenue in the first quarter, up 7.4% from first quarter 2017.

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