BlueMauMau reports that Jon Luther has stepped down in December as executive chairman and a paid employee of Dunkin’ Brands Inc. But he will continue strategic leadership as the chairman of the company’s board of directors.

Dunkin’s CEO is Nigel Travis, who was hired away two years ago from Kentucky-based pizza chain Papa John’s to replace Luther as Dunkin’s CEO.

An executive chairman is typically a full time position that leads the board but also helps lead a company’s day-to-day operations. In some firms, the position of a CEO is merged with chairman to form the rank of executive chairman. Critics of the executive chairman position argue that the job creates problems of “checks and balances” in corporate governance since the self-interests of a company’s executives can merge with the executive in the position, potentially usurping the strategic desires of the company’s owners. When there is one CEO and another executive chairman, like in the Dunkin’ case, the executive chairman can help guide and transition a new CEO. However, a criticism of such a structure is that there is potential for two conflicting heads trying to drive a company’s operations.

Luther was named chief executive officer of Dunkin’ Brands in January of 2003 and chairman in 2006. From February 1997 until December 2002, Luther was president of Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits.

Michelle King, director of  global public relations at Dunkin’ Brands, affirms this move is part of a leadership succession plan. She declares, “As has been planned since Nigel Travis was recruited to the company nearly two years ago by Jon Luther and the other members of our Board, Jon has been gradually removing himself from the day-to-day operations of the business and serving in an advisory capacity as we take Dunkin’ Brands to the next level as a strong and growing franchisor.”