Advisory firm ISS says Darden shareholders should vote for all 12 Starboard director nominees

MarketsAssociated Press

A shareholder advisory firm said Friday that Darden Restaurants shareholders should elect a new board of directors proposed by activist investor Starboard Value.

Institutional Shareholder Services is recommending that Darden shareholders vote for all 12 of the directors Starboard has nominated. ISS said the Starboard nominees have "an embarrassment of riches" in leading public companies, running restaurants, business turnarounds, finance and real estate.

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Starboard says the advisory firm Glass Lewis made the same recommendation.

Darden Restaurants Inc. is based in Orlando, Florida, and it runs restaurants including the Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse, and The Capital Grille. Earlier this year it sold its struggling Red Lobster chain. But Starboard and others took issue with the sale and wanted the company's breakup structured differently. Starboard, which owns 8.8 percent of Darden shares, is trying to gain control of the board.

In a press release, Darden said ISS is disregarding the work it is doing to improve Olive Garden's sales and image, as well as the company's search for a new CEO and its proposal to replace eight of its current directors. The company's annual shareholder meeting is scheduled for Oct. 10.

Darden shares rose 55 cents to $51.83 in afternoon trading.