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Daniel Schwartz: The whiz-kid who will lead Burger King-Tim Hortons

Published on Aug 27, 2014 12:28 PM

In the summer of 2013, a trim young man with wavy brown hair and high cheekbones was seen making Whoppers and scrubbing toilets at a Burger King outlet in Miami.

“I cleaned about 15 toilets in the past two days,” Businessweek reported him as saying.

Besides being able to make a Whopper in less than 35 seconds, the guy with a broad smile also blended in well with his fellow workers.

But he is no ordinary burger flipper. He is Daniel Schwartz, chief executive officer of American fast-food chain Burger King.

And here comes the best part: He is only 34 and well on his way to becoming a star in the F&B industry. He will be the CEO of a yet to be named new company following the merger of Burger King and Canadian coffee-and-donut chain Tim Hortons.

Burger King announced on Aug 26 that it was buying Tim Hortons in a US$11.4-billion (S$14.2-billion) deal, creating the world’s third-largest fast-food company, after McDonald’s and Yum!, owner of Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and Kentucky Fried Chicken.

And judging from his stints at the ground level, Schwartz is a hands-on guy. The whiz-kid has led the Florida-based fast-food chain through a cost-cutting crusade since his appointment in June 2013.

According to Bloomberg, he slashed the corporate headcount from nearly 39,000 to just under 2,500 by converting stores into franchises.

He also cut the company’s cushy perks: replacing corner offices with cubicles and cancelling an annual million-dollar party in Italy.

Since Schwartz became CEO, shares of Burger King have shot up roughly 60 per cent, according to CNN Money.

But he had no experience in the fast-food sector before joining Burger King. Schwartz spent almost a decade on Wall Street after graduating from Cornell in 2001.

And Schwartz is not the only whiz-kid in the company. He is  surrounded by a similarly eager and fresh-faced inner circle. Josh Kobza, chief financial officer, is 28. Alexandre Macedo, 36, is Burger King’s president for North American operations. Sami Siddiqui, head of investor relations, is only 29.

On questions over whether it is good to have such a fresh face to helm such a big firm - the average age of CEOs in the S&P 500 is 57 - analysts say there are pros and cons.

“The easy answer is that younger CEOs are less experienced to run a large business organisation,” says Matteo Tonello, who studies corporate leadership for The Conference Board, a nonprofit research organisation.

“However, leadership results not only from experience but also from other attributes such as creativity, intuition, people skills, and charisma,” he was quoted as saying by CNN.