Good morning. Fortune digital editor Andrew Nusca here in place of Alan, who is taking a much-deserved day off.
Chipotle, the popular fast casual food chain, named a new CEO late yesterday. Brian Niccol, CEO of Taco Bell, replaces Chipotle founder Steve Ells, who becomes the company’s executive chairman. Wall Street applauded the news; Chipotle’s slumping stock price shot up by as much as 12% in after-hours trading.
Don’t let the Mexi-inspired commonalities fool you—Ells and Niccol couldn’t be more different. Ells, 51, is the exacting chef-turned-entrepreneur-turned-executive who founded Chipotle in 1993. Niccol, 43, is a corporate fixture who spent a decade managing brands at P&G before six years at Pizza Hut and seven at Taco Bell, two as its CEO. One man brought forth a fast-casual revolution; another crafted a quick-service evolution.
But evolution is exactly what Chipotle needs right now. The chain’s scale—it now has more than 2,400 locations—long ago outran Ells, leading to 2015 and 2017 food safety scares that sullied the brand’s reputation for quality among consumers. Tapping Niccol, who presided over some 7,000 Taco Bell locations and repositioned the brand as a lifestyle choice, is the jolt of operational experience Chipotle needs.
Will Ells give Niccol enough room to revive the burrito purveyor? If he’s a student of business history, he will—founder-CEOs are rare for good reason. Because the only thing worse than a stomach bug that won’t quit is an executive that does the same.
Oh, and one more thing: We are proud to announce that Fortune’s next Global Forum will be held from Oct. 15 to 17 in Toronto. Our long-running Global Forum brings together CEOs and government leaders to discuss key business issues and topics of interest. Expect energy, infrastructure, and technology to feature in our Canadian program.
Today’s news below.
Russian operatives are already working to interfere with the U.S. midterm elections, according to American intelligence officials, using extensive digital trickery to deepen political divisions in the country. America’s not alone, either: European elections are also targeted. New York Times
Still Sweating It
Under Armour’s shares soared Tuesday after better-than-expected fourth-quarter results, but it’s premature to pop the champagne. Its sales still represent a slowdown from explosive growth in the recent past. Plus, it’s facing fierce competition in North America—its largest market—from a still-ascendant Adidas, Lululemon Athletics’ menswear line, and Dick’s Sporting Goods, a key retail partner that’s now pushing its own brands. Fortune
Your Delivery Has Arrived
JD.com, the second-largest Chinese e-commerce company behind Alibaba, has raised $2.5 billion for its logistics arm as it seeks to further bolster its market position in China and abroad. (The unit was valued at $10.9 billion prior to the new funding.) On tap for the retailer, according to CEO Richard Liu: automation, drones and robotics. Reuters
Netflix signed 21st Century Fox producer Ryan Murphy (Glee, American Horror Story) to a deal reported to last five years and be worth $300 million. It’s the latest salvo in a vicious war over talent between Netflix and its more traditional entertainment rivals; the Los Gatos, Calif. company managed to woo Shonda Rhimes (Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy) last August. Wall Street Journal
Around the Water Cooler
In the Ballpark
Artificial intelligence experts are commanding multiyear, seven-figure salaries for one reason: no one’s sure how many there are. Montreal startup Element AI estimated in February that there are 22,000 Ph.D.-level computer scientists around the world capable of building AI systems, but in December, Tencent Holdings pegged the number of “AI practitioners and researchers” much higher, in the 200,000 to 300,000 range. Bloomberg
Employers that don’t offer paid sick days could be making this year’s devastating flu season even worse. Studies show that employees without the benefit are more likely to go to work sick than to stay home and lose a day’s pay, which is bad for their own health and the health of their officemates. Washington Post
American Bitcoin investors aren’t in a hurry to tell Uncle Sam what they owe. Early data from one popular tax prep service shows that just .04% of tax filers in the U.S. have reported their cryptocurrency gains and losses to the IRS so far this year. That’s far fewer than the 7% who are estimated to own Bitcoin or another cryptocurrency, and who are likely to owe taxes to the IRS on those investments. Fortune
Cross My Heart
Happy Valentine’s Day! Or are you observing Ash Wednesday? Or both? Today is the first time since 1945 that the romantic holiday and the start of Lent have fallen on the same date, which, The New York Times notes, is posing a culinary conundrum for Catholics. New York Times