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Aylwin B. Lewis (born May 28, 1954) is an American businessman. He is currently the Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President of Potbelly Sandwich Works since June 2008. Potbelly is a growing Chicago-based sandwich chain with operations throughout the United States and internationally. In October 2013 Potbelly had a successful IPO. Lewis is a member of the Board of Directors of The Walt Disney Company serving since 2004, and the Board of Directors of Starwood Hotels and Resorts since January 2013. He is also on the Board of Directors at the University of Houston Bauer College of Business and serves as a trustee of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. He previously served on the Halliburton Board from 2001 - 2005.
A Texas native, Lewis has over 30 years of restaurant and retail experience. After moving up through the Jack in the Box ranks, he joined the restaurant division of Pepsico, which was later spun off into a corporate entity called Yum! Brands, Inc. Based in Louisville, Kentucky, Yum was the world's largest restaurant company, with holdings that included Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, KFC, Long John Silver's and A&W. Lewis headed various management posts within the company. In the early 1990s, he oversaw KFC's area operations for Chicago and the Great Lakes region, and in 1996 was promoted to the post of Chief Operating Officer of the KFC and Pizza Hut divisions. By 2003 he had been made President and Chief Multibranding and Operating Officer of Yum's 33,000-restaurant empire.
Prior to Potbelly, Lewis served as Chief Executive Officer and President of Sears Holdings Corporation, created from the merger of two retail giants, Kmart and Sears in March 2005. Lewis was the President and CEO of Kmart at the time of the merger. That job carried the distinction of making Lewis the highest ranking African-American executive in the U.S. retail industry. His authority increased immeasurably just a month later, when Kmart announced an $11 billion merger with another leading American retailer, Sears, Roebuck, which made him head of the third-largest retail chain in the United States.
He holds the following academic degrees: BA in English ('76), BS in Hotel and Restaurant Management ('76), and an MBA ('90)—all from the University of Houston. Aylwin Lewis also received a master's degree from Houston Baptist University. Lewis inherited his bookworm habit from his mother, and travels the world for pleasure when not in the office.
Recent Awards and Interviews:
Distiguished Alumni Award University of Houston
Let Go and Lead - Gagen MacDonald DePaul University
Milestones in Mentoring Executive Honoree The Plank Center for Leadership
Nation's Restaurant News Golden Chain Winner Outstanding Leadership/Career
Outstanding Leader Award - Mentor YWCA Chicago
CEO Perspective 2016 Kellogg School of Management & Chicago Booth School of Business - Corporate Leadership Center
Leadership Insights: Interviews with Global Leaders - Member, Executives' Club of Chicago
Jesse Jones High School, Houston, TX
University: BBA Management & BA English Literature, University of Houston (1976)
University: MBA, University of Houston
University: MA Human Resource Management, Houston Baptist University
Potbelly Sandwich Works Chairman, CEO, President (08-Current)
Sears Holdings President and CEO (2005)
K-Mart President and CEO (2004)
Yum! Brands President, Chief Multi-branding & Operating Officer (2003–04)
Yum! Brands COO (2002–03)
Tricon Global Restaurants COO (2000–02)
Tricon Global Restaurants EVP Operations and New Business Development (2000)
Pizza Hut COO (1997–99)
Pizza Hut Senior VP Operations (1996–97)
KFC Senior VP, Marketing & Operations Development (1995–96)
Jack in the Box District Manager of Operations (after college)
• Chain Store Age, December 2004, p. 39.
• Detroit News, October 19, 2004.
• Houston Chronicle, October 19, 2004, p. 11.
• International Herald Tribune, November 19, 2004, p. 19.
• Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News, October 19, 2004; November 21, 2004.
• Seattle Times, November 18, 2004, p. E1.