March 14, 2018 / 4:33 PM / 8 months ago

UPDATE 1-Chipotle marketing chief resigns days after new CEO takes charge

(Adds details, company comment, context on retention bonus)

By Lisa Baertlein

March 14 (Reuters) - Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc’s chief marketing and strategy officer has resigned, the company said on Wednesday, just nine days after former Taco Bell head Brian Niccol took the helm at the troubled U.S. burrito chain.

Mark Crumpacker will leave Chipotle on March 15, according to a regulatory filing. Crumpacker could not be reached immediately for comment.

Chipotle, which used its “Food with Integrity” tagline to build a loyal following, disappointed some investors in September 2016 when it reinstated Crumpacker just months after he was charged with multiple counts of cocaine possession.

He pleaded guilty to cocaine possession in January 2017. Prosecutors agreed to dismiss the case if he received treatment for a year and stayed out of trouble.

Chipotle disclosed in a January filing it had given “retention” bonuses of $1 million to Chief Financial Officer Jack Hartung and $600,000 to Crumpacker if they stayed for one year after a new CEO was appointed.

A Chipotle spokesman said Crumpacker will receive previously negotiated post-employment payments, including his retention bonus.

Crumpacker’s retention bonus agreement included several scenarios for payment upon early departure.

Niccol took the helm from Chipotle founder Steve Ells on March 5.

Crumpacker’s efforts, particularly food giveaways aimed at wooing back customers after a series of reputation-crushing food safety lapses in late 2015, were costly and failed to resonate with customers.

Chipotle also faces new competition from low-priced fast-food chains as well as upstart restaurants that also offer food made from higher-quality ingredients.

Additional reporting by Uday Sampath in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernard Orr and Jeffrey Benkoe

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