Darden Restaurants CEO Clarence Otis, who has came under fire from activist investors for his turnaround strategy, is stepping down.
Darden President and Chief Operating Officer Gene Lee will take over as interim CEO until the board’s search committee selects someone to fill the role permanently.
The company, which owns the Olive Garden and LongHorn restaurant chains, had revealed in July that Otis would be stepping down on Dec. 31, unless Darden found his successor ahead of that date.
Activist investor Starboard Value has been pressuring Darden to shake up its management team for the last year. The company recently decided to elect all of the hedge fund’s nominees to its board.
Commenting on the appointment in a release, Lee said, “I am thrilled with the opportunity provided by the board to lead the company and our 150,000 employees as we accelerate the progress at all of our brands. Our teams are energized and looking with optimism at the opportunities ahead. Everyone at Darden is focused on delivering an outstanding experience to every guest, every time, and with that level of commitment, our company will succeed.”
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