Bloomin' Brands says it appointed two new board members, and both have ties to Starboard Value, the activist fund that owns almost 10% of the Tampa-based restaurant giant.
Starboard, known on Wall Street for pushing for changes at Darden Restaurants, the parent company of Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse, saw its stock value surge over the years after Starboard's initial involvement in 2014. Now Starboard is pushing for changes at Outback, Bloomin' Brands' premier chain.
New to the Bloomin' Brands board are Dave George, former chief operating officer of Darden Restaurants, and Jon Sagal, partner at Starboard.
George most recently served as executive vice president and COO at Darden Restaurants from January 2018 to August 2020. He originally joined Darden in 2007 as a result of Darden’s acquisition of LongHorn Steakhouse, where he was president. He graduated from Michigan State University, where he received a bachelor's degree in hotel and restaurant management.
Sagal joined Starboard in 2011. Prior to that, Sagal was an investment analyst at Casablanca Capital, an investment firm focused on shareholder activism. Sagal received an MBA from Columbia Business School and graduated from Princeton University, where he received a bachelor of arts degree in philosophy.
The appointments "have been made in connection with a cooperation agreement entered into between the company and Starboard … and reflect the company's ongoing commitment to constructive shareholder engagement," Bloomin' Brands says in a Tuesday statement.
The head of Starboard agrees that talks have been constructive and will enhance shareholder value.
Jeffrey Smith, Starboard CEO and chief investment officer, says that "throughout the course of our engagement with Bloomin' Brands, we have appreciated the collaborative and open dialogue we have had with members of the board and management team."
Bloomin' Brands also announced the formation of an "Operating Committee of the Board." The committee will work with management "to identify and recommend opportunities for further improvement related to various corporate and operational matters," company officials say.