When Sardar Biglari pushed his way onto the board of directors of Steak ‘N Shake in 2008 with his old college professor as a partner in crime, the restaurant chain had seen years of declining revenues. Now, four years later—the burger joint saw yearly profit go up nearly 36% in 2011 and has just opened their first location in Manhattan, according to a DealBook profile of Biglari. He is now the CEO and Chairman of the restaurant chain.Biglari, who allegedly became interested in investing after he read a book about renowned investor Warren Buffett, began honing his business instincts in college when he started an Internet business with a friend. After selling that business, Biglari began investing right out of college, focusing a majority of his projects on the restaurant industry. Currently, he is the owner of Biglari Holdings—a shell company that holds all of his investments.
He’s seen success with now-bankrupt Friendly’s—which he sold off to a private equity firm in 2008 for a profit—and buffet restaurant Western Sizzlin’. But he’s also experienced disappointment—his attempt to shake up Cracker Barrel ran into a block when he was rejected from the board, though he told DealBook that he’s “supremely insensitive to criticism.”
His young age (he’s only 34) and smart investments has many comparing him to Warren Buffett, but his aggressive style and takeover history may also align him next to raiders like Carl Icahn in the history books. Biglari also draws inspiration from Bridgewater’s Ray Dalio, once quoting Dalio’s investment principles in an interview with DealBook’s Kevin Roose.
Biglari is certainly living the American dream. His family immigrated to America in 1984 from Iran, and ran a rug store in Texas. A QSR report on the young investor points out that when he moved to America, Steak ‘N Shake was already a 50-year old operation, which puts the scope of Biglari’s success with the burger joint in perspective. And where does Biglari stand now? A Wall Street Journal report on Biglari puts that in perspective:
Mr. Biglari now controls around 15% of Biglari Holdings, where earnings rose 21% to $23.8 million in the nine months ended July, helped by a 4.9% increase in Steak ‘n Shake same-store sales.
The work has paid handsomely. Mr. Biglari gets a $900,000 salary plus up to $10 million in annual incentive compensation, an arrangement he has said is akin to a hedge fund. Mr. Biglari has kept his fondness for sports cars. Public records show he has owned a Lamborghini, Ferrari and Aston Martin.
And Biglari and his family certainly aren’t shy about showing off how far he’s come and the fruits of his successes. From DealBook:
As rain fell outside the Manhattan Steak ‘n Shake, Mr. Biglari was inside, promoting the new restaurant. He shook hands with customers and bragged about the chain’s burgers, its wine and beer selection and its touch-screen Coca-Cola machine. His mother, dressed in a full-length fur coat and Chanel earrings, looked on from a sidewalk spot next to his father, who wore a gold tie and beamed with pride.