He will be replaced by CFO Craig Ramsey on an interim basis. The leadership shift is effective August 7 and the company’s board of directors has formed a search committee to find a replacement.
Lopez is expected to announce his position at a new company, in a different industry, some time on Tuesday, AMC’s leadership told analysts on a conference call after news of the transition was released.
“I didn’t expect this to happen, but I never really viewed Gerry as a theater industry lifer,” said Eric Wold, an analyst with B. Riley & Company. “I don’t expect it to have any impact on the company or its trajectory. They have a deep management team.”
Lopez loomed large at AMC Theatres during his six-year tenure, overseeing an ambitious effort to refashion its locations with premium seating and by offering additional amenities that included alcohol and a broader array of concessions. Just this month, AMC stunned the industry by partnering with Paramount Pictures on an initiative that could potentially shrink home entertainment release windows by allowing the studio to release two horror films early.
“He was probably the most out of the box thinker among the [exhibition industry] CEOs,” said Eric Handler, an analyst with MKM Partners. “He was open to new ideas and that served him well.”
In interviews, Lopez cited his outsider status as the reason he was willing to fiddle with the mold. He joined AMC not from the ranks of exhibition, but after serving as EVP of Starbucks Coffee Company and president of its global consumer products, Seattle’s Best Coffee and food service divisions.
“The AMC I leave behind is in good hands and in great shape,” Lopez said in a statement. “I believe the strategic and financial foundation is in place for continued success well into the future. I now plan to bring my passion for strategic refocus to another industry, where guest focus and strategic redeployment are equally important.”
Lopez took the reins at AMC when it was still owned by private equity, but benefited from Dalian Wanda Group’s 2012 purchase of the chain. The Chinese company invested capital in AMC, allowing it to undertake its costly re-seating initiative. Rival exhibitors, such as Cinemark and Regal, soon followed suit, instituting their own theater improvements.
Earlier in his career, Lopez worked as president at Handleman Entertainment Resources, which partnered with the likes of Wal-Mart and Best Buy on music distribution, and had stints at Frito-Lay, Pepsi-Cola and Procter & Gamble.
Ramsey has been with AMC for more than 20 years.