News Column

Former Olive Garden president joins hedge fund battling Darden

February 20, 2014

By Sandra Pedicini, Orlando Sentinel



Feb. 20--Brad Blum, Olive Garden's former president, is now working with a hedge fund firm that is battling his former employer.

The Winter Park restaurant executive is working as an adviser to Starboard Value, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Starboard is trying to stop Darden from spinning off or selling Red Lobster, saying the company needs to maximize the value of its real estate. It also wants Darden to spin off Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse along with Red Lobster, separating the big brands from the smaller ones. Starboard has threatened to try to oust most of Darden's board if the company doesn't slow down its Red Lobser plans.

Blum and a spokesman for Darden could not be reached for comment.

Darden's stock was up almost 3 percent late Thursday morning.

Starboard is paying Blum $50,000 in an agreement that was entered into Wednesday. Blum will use the proceeds from that compensation to acquire Darden stock.

Blum, of Winter Park, worked at Orlando-based Darden Restaurants from 1995 to 2002. He was president of Olive Garden when it rolled out its successful Tuscan-style makeover in 2000. He was Darden's vice chairman before he left for Burger King, where he was chief executive officer.

Blum also had a brief stint as chief executive officer of Romano's Macaroni Grill.

Meanwhile, Darden's head of investor relations, Matthew Stroud, is going to be a featured speaker next week in a program called, "Managing the Activists." The program, hosted by the National Investor Relations Institute, is billed as helping companies "gain insight to manage shareholder activists, and what to do when they make a lot of noise."

spedicini@tribune.com or 407-420-5240

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Source: Orlando Sentinel (FL)


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