Activist Investors Pressure Darden To Improve Performance

Darden Restaurants, Inc. (NYSE:DRI), owner of the Red Lobster and Olive Garden restaurant chains, came under pressure today from a second shareholder activist group lobbying for measures to improve the price of shares. Already having been pressured by Barington Capital since September, Darden management came under renewed assault today from investment firm Starboard Value, who have recently acquired a 5.6% stake in the company.

Both activist shareholder groups argue that Darden Restaurants, Inc. (NYSE:DRI) needs to do more to maximize shareholder value. In response to the ongoing criticism, last week Darden announced it was spinning off its Red Lobster chain as well as taking other steps to try and improve its stock price.

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Starboard Value statement on Darden’s performance

In an SEC filing made public today, Starboard Value said “the plan outlined by management falls significantly short of the actions required to maximize shareholder value,” going on to say they were “disappointed with the continued poor financial performance” of the company. Starboard Value’s statement did not specify what additional steps they would like Darden Restaurants, Inc. (NYSE:DRI) to take.

Barington Capital plan for Darden

Activist hedge fund Barington Capital has been calling for breaking Darden Restaurants, Inc. (NYSE:DRI) into three independent businesses. They produced an 80-page report arguing that one business should own and manage the well-established Red Lobster and Olive Garden brands, a second business should be formed to to maximize the potential of younger, faster-growing chains like LongHorn and Capital Grille, and that Darden’s significant real estate holdings should be consolidated into a real estate trust. Barington has also called for reductions in overhead in the range of $100 million.

Shares of Darden Restaurants, Inc. (NYSE:DRI) were up $3.02 at $54.11 as of 12:52 PM EST today.