Meet The Hedge Fund Manager Who Wants To Change The Way Olive Garden Serves Breadsticks

Activist investor Jeff Smith, who runs hedge fund Starboard Value, wants to to make a change to Olive Garden’s famous unlimited breadsticks and salad.

Smith’s fund owns an 8.8% in the restaurant group’s stock.

It’s his contention that by eliminating the endless menu option the restaurant will be able to save $US5 million per year. He points out that there are too many breadsticks on the table, and they’re being wasted.

Starboard’s main investment thesis is to find undervalued small-cap companies and actively engage with management and boards to unlock value.

Smith’s Starboard Value launched in 2002. The fund currently manages around $US2.3 billion in assets.

He’s had some noteworthy shareholder activism campaigns. He took on AOL, but lost his proxy fight. He also took an activist stake in Office Depot with later merged with OfficeMax (He resigned from the Office Depot board the other day).

According to Institutional Investor, Smith has made money on 84% of his fund’s activist campaigns.

Before launching his own fund, Smith was a managing director at Ramius LLC (both the head of risk management and head of research at Starboard also worked at Ramius). Before that, he was a Vice President of Strategic Development for The Fresh Juice Company. He began his career in finance working in M&A at SocGen.

He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.

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