Arby's Inc. has named Manhattan restaurant baron Irving Riese as its new president, succeeding Leonard H. Roberts, who was fired after criticizing the roast beef sandwich chain's principal owner, Miami financier Victor Posner.
The move triggered prompt criticism from a group of franchise holders quarreling with Posner, who has rejected their $200-million buyout bid for the Atlanta-based 2,100-restaurant chain.
Riese is partner with his brother Murray in the Riese Organization, one of the nation's largest privately owned restaurant firms, controlling more than 500 locations in 33 states, including many restaurants of various chains at prime locations in New York.
"Mr. Riese brings with him the experience of the Riese Organization," Arby's Inc. said in a statement from Miami Beach. The statement said Riese's election was part of a "continuing commitment to the growth and expansion of Arby's."
Roberts, who became president and chief executive of Arby's in July, 1985, was fired a few hours after releasing a sharply worded letter resigning as vice chairman of Posner's DWG Corp.
DWG owns 60% of Chesapeake Financial Corp., which, in turn, owns Arby's.
Roberts' letter was highly critical of Posner and his decision not to negotiate with the R. B. Partners group, eight Arby's franchisees who operate more than 500 stores and have offered $200 million for the company.
The appointment of Riese as Arby's president drew fire Wednesday from the AFA Service Corp., an organization owned by Arby's 500 franchisees. It holds marketing and advertising rights to the company trademark.
AFA Service Corp. Chairman Joseph Smaltz blasted the appointment as "totally unacceptable," in view of the Riese Organization's ownership of Burger King and Roy Rogers stores and other restaurant franchises.
Smaltz said Arby's franchise holders were "outraged" and would "examine every alternative to protect the value of our businesses and the Arby's system from further erosion by Mr. Posner's actions."
"Mr. Posner deprived us of the most successful chief executive in our history," Smaltz said. "Today he offers us a replacement with a serious conflict of interest, questionable motives and no relevant experience."