New Darden board of directors appoints former board member Bill Simon to new term

MarketsAssociated Press

Darden Restaurants, the parent company of the Olive Garden, said Thursday that former Wal-Mart executive Bill Simon is returning to its board of directors.

Simon was a company director for two years, but did not run for a new term in 2014. On Friday Darden shareholders voted to replace the company's entire board with a slate of 12 nominees proposed by investment firm Starboard Value LP. Starboard had criticized Darden's management on a variety of issues ranging from the sale of its Red Lobster chain to the operations at Olive Garden, which has continued to struggle.

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Simon's appointment expands Darden's board to 13 seats. The company said it will continue to evaluate potential board candidates and could name another board member.

Simon, 55, was president and CEO of Walmart US for four years before he resigned in August. He was also an executive at Brinker International Inc., the parent company of Chili's restaurants.

Darden Restaurants Inc. also owns smaller chains including LongHorn Steakhouse, The Capital Grille and Yard House. The Orlando, Florida, company promoted Gene Lee to interim CEO on Tuesday. Lee had been the company's chief operating officer.