David Novak is stepping down as chairman of Yum! Brands Inc., effective in May, ending the former CEO’s nearly 30-year tenure at the quick-service brand operator, the company said on Tuesday.

Yum plans to name a non-executive chairman from among its existing directors during the company’s annual shareholder meeting.

The announcement came more than a year after Novak stepped down as CEO. Greg Creed replaced Novak on Jan. 1, 2015. It also comes as Yum! Brands splits into two companies — one that operates its three brands KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, and another that operates restaurants in those brands in China.

“I feel deeply privileged to have served over the years as Yum Brands chairman and CEO,” Novak said in a statement. “As we target the separation of our China business by the end of 2016 and transition to two powerful, independent companies, it is a perfect time for me to complete my retirement.”

He added that Creed at Yum and Micky Pant, CEO of Yum China, are “strong, highly capable leaders.” “I am completely confident both of them will take their businesses to the next level and I look forward to cheering them on and supporting them after my retirement,” Novak said.

Novak started his career at PepsiCo in 1986 as chief marketing officer for the Pizza Hut division. He ultimately became chief operating officer for Pepsi-Cola, and then CEO of KFC US. He held several positions with the company before PepsiCo spun off the restaurant brands in 1997, and Novak was president and vice chairman.

Novak was promoted to Yum CEO in 1999 and was named chairman in 2000. He became executive chairman when he stepped down as CEO on Jan. 1, 2015. Over that time, Yum grew into a global restaurant behemoth with 41,000 locations in 125 countries and revenues of more than $13 billion.

“David Novak is a visionary leader who built Yum Brands into a global powerhouse and one of the world’s largest restaurant companies,” Creed said in a statement.

“During his tenure, the company expanded its vast footprint in new emerging markets, became the category leader in China, delivered high return on invested capital and saw its market capitalization grow from $4.6 billion to approximately $31 billion.”

Contact Jonathan Maze at jonathan.maze@penton.com
Follow him on Twitter: @jonathanmaze