Darden hires Korn/Ferry to find next CEO

MarketsAssociated Press

Less than a month after Starboard Value unseated the board at Darden and named an interim chief executive, the restaurant company has brought in a new executive search firm to find its CEO.

The owner of the Olive Garden and, until recently, Red Lobster, announced Wednesday that it had hired Korn/Ferry International to replace Russell Reynolds Associates.

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Darden has wrestled with shifting consumer tastes and in May, sold the Red Lobster chain to Golden Gate Capital for $2.1 billion in cash. It has swapped out menus and tried several marketing campaigns to drive diners to its tables, with mixed results.

"With the new board now firmly in place, we wanted to work with a leading search firm that will give us a fresh perspective to help identify the best and most appropriate talent for Darden," said Chairman Jeff Smith.

After the board was replaced, the Orlando, Florida, company named Chief Operating Officer Gene Lee as interim CEO to replace Clarence Otis, who had run the company since 2004.

Darden Restaurants Inc. also owns smaller chains including LongHorn Steakhouse, The Capital Grille and Yard House.