Darden's Interim Chief to Permanently Take Over


Darden Restaurants Inc, the parent of Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse chains, said interim Chief Executive Eugene Lee would take over the job permanently, effective immediately.

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Lee took over as interim CEO in October, replacing Clarence Otis, who stepped down amid pressure from activist investors Starboard Value LP and Barington Capital Group LP.

Starboard, which was Darden's largest shareholder as of Dec. 31 with a 9.38 percent stake, replaced the restaurant company's board in October after a months-long fight.

Starboard launched the fight in May after Darden said it would sell its Red Lobster chain to Golden Gate Capital in a $2.1 billion deal, which Starboard called a "destructive" transaction" that ignored shareholders' rights.

In its first quarterly report under the new board, Darden posted a 4.9 percent rise in second-quarter sales in December.

Darden said on Monday it would now focus on its search for a chief financial officer to replace Brad Richmond, who would retire by the end of March.

The company had announced Richmond's retirement in November.

Lee joined Darden in 2007 as a part of its acquisition of Rare Hospitality Group, then the owner of the LongHorn Steakhouse and Capital Grill chains.

Up to Friday's close, Darden's shares had risen 32 percent since Lee was appointed interim CEO. (Reporting by Shailaja Sharma in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Kirti Pandey)