Red Lobster is now officially owned by Golden Gate Capital. Darden Restaurants, Inc. (NYSE:DRI) announced in a press release today that it has finished the sale, thus positioning itself to improve operations, focus on opportunities to create value and cut costs.
Red Lobster sale complete
In May, Golden Gate Capital agreed to pay about $2.1 billion in cash for the Red Lobster chain and some related assets and assume liabilities. Darden Restaurants, Inc. (NYSE:DRI) said the sale was part of a competitive process that made it possible for it to maximize Red Lobster’s value while also dumping the risks and volatility associated with the seafood restaurant chain. Darden also said the move is consistent with its increased focus on its Italian restaurant chain, Olive Garden, and also keeping its dividend.
As announced previously, Darden plans to use about $1 billion of the net cash proceeds to retire outstanding debt. The company will use the rest of the proceeds, or about $500 million to $600 million, for a new share buyback program, which is expected to reach up to $700 million in the 2015 fiscal year. In the wake of the deal’s closure, Darden Restaurants, Inc. (NYSE:DRI)’s credit profile is strengthened, as it has reduced its debt and will be cutting down its outstanding share count.
The company expects to keep in place its 55 cent per share quarterly dividend, which is $2.20 per share each year.
Red Lobster sale: Darden battles Starboard
The Red Lobster sale comes in spite of the battle with Starboard Capital, which was trying to keep Darden Restaurants from dumping the chain. The firm called a shareholder meeting in an attempt to block the sale. Starboard had a 5.5% stake in Darden and said Darden’s management had a history of bad performance and making bad decisions.
Starboard said it sees the separation as “suboptimal” and that it “may ultimately prove to be value destructive.” The firm also stated that the plan seemed hurried and came about because of pressure from shareholders.