Bill Baumhauer, chief executive and chairman of The Egg & I Restaurants, died early last week at his home in Knoxville, Tenn., the company said Monday. He was 66.

Centennial, Colo.-based E&I Holdings Inc., parent to the 100-unit breakfast-lunch chain, said Don Lamb, president and chief operating officer since October 2005, would serve as interim chief executive.

Lamb said in a statement that Baumhauer “died suddenly and unexpectedly,” and an E&I representative said the family had not released a cause of death.

“Bill was not only my good friend,” Lamb said, “he was a brilliant man who brought tremendous leadership, energy and passion to his job, to our restaurants and to our company.

“More than anything, Bill was a role model for each of us, and we are better off, as individuals and as an organization, because of him,” Lamb said. “Bill made an indelible mark on each one of us associated with The Egg & I Restaurants.”

Through his career, Baumhauer held a number of leadership positions in various restaurants and foodservice brands.

He served as an executive vice president and then chairman, president and chief executive of Fuddruckers Inc. between June 1982 and November 1988, and in top posts at Daka International Inc. of Danvers, Mass., from November 1988 to June 1998.

He left to become president and chief operating officer of Planet Hollywood Inc. of Orlando, Fla., for a year, and in June 1999 became president, chief executive and chairman of Champps Entertainment Inc. of Littleton, Colo., until 2005, when he joined Egg & I.

He was also named to head E&I Restaurants Inc., an affiliated company that owns and operates 14 Egg & I Restaurants in Colorado and Tennessee.

Egg & I’s board said Lamb was well suited to fill the interim role.

“Don Lamb worked side by side with Bill Baumhauer since October 2005 to nurture and grow The Egg & I from 17 restaurants to [more than] 100 restaurants today,” the board said in a statement. “Don is ideally suited and prepared to continue Bill’s remarkable focus and discipline on behalf of our brand.”

The board also lauded Baumhauer’s transition plan.

“Perhaps the greatest legacy that Bill Baumhauer left to our The Egg & I family is the talent and commitment of the senior management team he assembled,” the company said. “While we can never replace Bill’s strategic brilliance or leadership, we will honor him by continuing his passion for our brand.”

Egg & I Restaurants has operations in 19 states.

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