Baldwin Replaces Schlemon as CEO of Benihana Chain
Benihana Inc. has named Thomas J. Baldwin as its chief executive officer and president. He succeeds Steve Shlemon, who had served as ceo since February of 2014.
Baldwin is currently on the company’s board of directors and is an advisor to Angelo, Gordon & Co., Benihana's principal investor. Based in Aventura, Florida, he is now responsible for Benihana's 100 Benihana, RA Sushi and Haru Sushi restaurants, as well as the 10 Benihana franchised restaurants.
The new ceo brings more than three decades of restaurant and food industry expertise to Benihana, having served in senior executive roles at both publicly-listed and privately-held companies, including the positions of chairman, ceo and president of Morton's Restaurant Group. During his 20-year tenure at Morton's, Baldwin led the company through two IPOs and is recognized throughout the restaurant industry for his role in building Morton's The Steakhouse into a global iconic brand and category leader. He has also been active in multiple private equity-backed restaurant brands, and is an advisor to the board of directors for Home Run Inn frozen pizza and restaurant operations in the Greater Chicago area.
Benihana Inc., which is regarded as the leading operator of Japanese Teppanyaki and Sushi restaurants in the United States, has franchise units in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Richard Leonard, managing director of Angelo, Gordon & Co.'s Private Equity Group, commented: "We are very excited to have an executive of Tom's caliber lead Benihana, RA Sushi and Haru. He brings extensive domestic and international experience in growth-oriented branded restaurants, and expertise in strategy, people resources, operations, marketing and real estate development that we are confident will further strengthen our operations for many years to come."
Leonard added, "On behalf of the board I would like to thank Steve Shlemon for his many contributions and wish him continued success in his future endeavors."