Darden CEO and Chairman to Step Down, Company to Split Roles

Darden's CEO who decided to sell Red Lobster will step down later in 2014 after the company finds a replacement
Darden CEO and chairman Clarence Otis, Jr. will step down from his positions after the company finds a replacement.

Clarence Otis Jr., currently both the chief executive officer and chairman of Darden, will step down from later this year, the company announced on Monday. Otis will remain in the CEO position either until a successor is named, or until December 31st, whichever comes first.

Effective immediately, the company has appointed lead independent director Charles A. Ledsinger Jr. as an independent non-executive chairman of the board.

Earlier this year, following Darden’s sale of Red Lobster — a move which the company's activtist investor Starboard Value saw as unwise — the company was urged to split the positions of CEO and chairman, calling Darden’s decision to give up Red Lobster the result of “a corporate bureaucracy that has demonstrated extremely poor leadership.”

During Otis’ tenure, Darden grew from $5.2 billion in annual sales to more than $8.7 billion in annual sales in 2014. However, Otis was criticized for what investors considered a shortsighted decision to sell Red Lobster, resulting in a loss in market value of $1 billion for the company.

“With the Red Lobster sale complete and progress on our Olive Garden brand renaissance and other strategic priorities underway, this is the right time for me to step down,” said Otis. “I am confident that they, under the leadership of our board and management team, will continue to make progress on the actions we are taking to reinvigorate restaurant performance and further enhance shareholder value.”

For the latest food and drink updates, visit our Food News page.

Karen Lo is an associate editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @appleplexy.

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