For long-time Yum! Brands (YUM) executive and CEO Greg Creed, splitting up a global fast food empire into two separate companies wasn't exactly as easy as ordering a Crunchwrap from the drive-thru. But the harrowing year-long experience did manage to serve up some important life lessons to the 58-year-old Creed.
"I have learned patience, I have learned that it's all about teamwork and it's also about having great leaders -- you can't have people taking their eyes off the business," Creed told TheStreet. He discussed the process of splitting off Yum's China business from the mothership, which happened on Tuesday with Yum! China's (YUMC) listing on the New York Stock Exchange.
The process of Yum! Brands slicing off its China business kicked into high gear last year. For several quarters, KFC China's performance lagged due to multiple country-wide food safety scares, and Pizza Hut suffered in China amid the growing popularity of mobile ordering (Pizza Hut is mostly a sit-down restaurant in China). That pressured Yum! Brands' stock price as a result.
Activist investor Keith Meister of Corvex Capital took a stake in Yum! Brands in May 2015. Meister -- who was a vocal advocate of Yum! spinning off its China operations to unlock its value and instead have executives focus on the U.S. and other countries -- was added to Yum! Brands' board on Oct. 15. (He is still on the board, and according to Bloomberg data Corvex continues to own more than 5% of Yum! Brands' shares outstanding as of June 30.)
"When I originally saw Keith Meister's presentation, I thought he had stolen my slide deck. He even titled it "The Best of Both Worlds," which was the name of the presentation that I had given to the board of directors. We were fundamentally aligned from day one," recalled former Yum! Brands CEO David Novak in a May interview. Said Novak, "I think Keith Meister is a great guy and director, smart as hell. He hasn't come in and told us what to do."
From the point of Meister's addition to the board, it has been all systems go for Yum! Brands in setting up the leadership for both companies and taking care of the all the nuts and bolts to actually spin off a massive China fast food business.
Then, Creed and his team took to the stage and presented the final vision of the two companies to a packed room of Wall Street bankers and analysts earlier this month. It was pretty compelling.