Richest BusinessCEOs
Net Worth:
$500 Million
Sep 12, 1965 (58 years old)
Chef, Businessperson
United States of America
💰 Compare Steve Ells' Net Worth

What is Steve Ells' net worth and salary?

Steve Ells is an American businessman who has a net worth of $500 million. Steve Ells earned his fortune as the founder of Chipotle Mexican Grill. Steve Ells earned a total of $116.1 million in salary and bonuses during his time as CEO of Chipotle Mexican Grill. His highest earning year was 2014, when he earned $29 million. He resigned as CEO in 2017.

As of this writing Steve Ells owns 208,339 shares of Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. (CMG) stock. When CMG's stock price crossed $2,000 in June 2023, Steve's stake was worth a little over $400 million on paper. He has sold a total of 268,339 shares over the years for hundreds of millions in pre-tax proceeds. The most recent sale was on February 28, 2020, when he sold 119,104 shares for $795.53 per share. The total proceeds from the sale were $95,359,040.

Early Life

Steve Ells was born on September 12, 1966 in Indianapolis, Indiana. His father worked as a pharmaceutical executive and the family moved to Colorado in Ells' youth. He attended Boulder High School and the University of Colorado at Boulder where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art History. He also was a member of the Delta Chi fraternity. He later decided he was interested in a career in the restaurant industry and enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. He graduated in 1990.

Early Career

Following his graduation from culinary school, Ells served for two years as a sous chef under Jeremiah Tower at Stars restaurant in San Francisco. He then began envisioning his own restaurant concept after observing the popularity of taquerias and San Francisco-style burritos in the Mission District of the city.


He opened a Chipotle-themed taco store in Denver, Colorado near the University of Denver campus using $85,000 borrowed from his family and friends. He had calculated he would need to sell 107 burritos per day to turn a profit. After one month, he was selling 1,000 burritos per day.

He officially launched Chipotle in 1993, making it one of the first fast casual dining establishments. The restaurant specialized in tacos, burritos, and bowls that are made to order. He opened a second location in 1995 and then a third shortly after. Over the first five years of being in business, he opened 16 Chipotle locations in Colorado. He also created a board of directors and business plan. By 1998, McDonald's Corporation became a major investor in the company. The same year, Ells opened the first Chipotle Mexican Grill outside of Colorado in Kansas City, Missouri. By 2001, McDonald's had grown to be Chipotle's largest investor. By 2005, Ells had opened over 500 Chipotle locations around the country.

Throughout this whole period of time, Ells had served as the president, COO, CEO, and chairman of Chipotle. However, in March of 2005, Monty Moran was appointed president and COO while Ells remained chairman and CEO.

In January of 2006, Chipotle made its initial public offering (IPO) after increasing the share price twice due to high pre-IPO demand. In its first day as a public company, the stock rose exactly 100%, resulting in the best U.S.-based IPO in six years. In October of 2006, McDonald's fully divested from Chipotle. They had originally invested $360 in the company and walked away with $1.5 billion. McDonald's had attempted to get Chipotle to add drive-through windows and a breakfast menu, which Ells resisted and ultimately decided not to do.


In 2008, Chipotle opened its first location outside of the United States in Toronto. In January of 2009, Monty Moran was promoted to co-CEO, a position he shared with Ells. Chipotle ranked eighth on a list of the fastest-growing restaurant chains in 2009 and then in 2010, it ranked third. By 2011, the Chipotle restaurants were serving around 750,000 customers per day.

In 2010, Chipotle and Ells were in hot water when they were audited by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The audit found that some employees had been hired using fraudulent documents. An investigation was launched and Ells hired a number of high profile attorneys and former director of ICE for its defense. They again faced criticism in 2013 when "The New York Times" reported that Ells was paid over $25 million, more than equivalent executives of companies like Ford, Boeing, and AT&T. This was the culmination of years of high wages for Ells and Moran. By the early 2010s, they had been paid more than $300 million in compensation. In May of 2014, shareholders rejected a plan to further increase the executives' wages.

In December of 2016, Ells became the sole CEO of Chipotle when Monty Moran stepped down. A year later, Ells announced that he would also soon be stepping down as CEO. In February of 2018, it was announced that Taco Bell CEO Brian Niccol would replace Ells, though Ells would retain his chairman position. In March of 2020, Ells broke all ties with the chain when he resigned as chairman and departed from the board of directors.

Outside of Chipotle, Ells also was a judge for the television show "America's Next Great Restaurant" in 2011. He also joined the show's investment panel alongside Bobby Flay, Curtis Stone, and Lorena Garcia. However, having not previously watched reality television, he quickly became disillusioned with the experience.

Personal Life 

Ells is single and has not previously been married. He has not been public about his personal life, preferring to keep details of possible relationships discreet.

Real Estate

Over two transactions, the first in 2014 and the second in 2015, Steve paid a total of $32.5 million for two buildings in NYC. He proceeded to combine the two buildings into one mega-mansion.

In November 2021 Steve Ells paid $30 million for a townhouse in NYC's West Village. Just six months later Ells sold this townhouse for $35 million.

In 2001 he custom built a mansion in Denver. He sold this home in 2008 for $3.5 million.

All net worths are calculated using data drawn from public sources. When provided, we also incorporate private tips and feedback received from the celebrities or their representatives. While we work diligently to ensure that our numbers are as accurate as possible, unless otherwise indicated they are only estimates. We welcome all corrections and feedback using the button below.
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