NEWPORT BEACH, CALIF. – Steve Ells, founder of Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., stepped down from his role as director and executive chairman of the company’s board after Brian Niccol, chief executive officer, was named chairman.

Ells founded Chipotle 24 years ago and led the company as CEO until 2017, when he stepped down following several years of food safety crises and declining traffic. He has served as director and executive chairman for two years.

Niccol has led successful efforts to rebound sales since joining the company in 2018.

“Brian has proven that he is absolutely the right person to lead Chipotle forward and I’ve never been more confident about the future of this great company,” Ells said. “I look forward to following Chipotle’s continued growth and success for many years to come.”

The company also announced that directors Matthew Paull and Paul Cappuccio will not stand for reelection to the board at the 2020 annual meeting of shareholders. Neil Flanzraich will continue as lead independent director.