Leadership

Bloomin' activist Starboard Value taps ex-Darden COO Dave George as advisor

The operations specialist will help Starboard’s push to shake things up at Bloomin’.
Bloomin' owns Outback Steakhouse and other full-service restaurant brands. | Photo: Shutterstock

Starboard Value, the activist investor that has taken a stake in Bloomin’ Brands, has brought on a restaurant operations specialist to help in its efforts to turn around the company.

In an SEC filing Thursday, Starboard reported that it had retained Dave George, a former COO of Darden Restaurants, as an advisor on its investment in Bloomin’.

George spent nearly 17 years at Darden and was president of both Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse before becoming COO of the company. He retired in 2020. He is widely regarded as an operations expert

“After discussions with Mr. George and in view of Mr. George’s unique skill set, broad restaurant industry experience and extensive restaurant industry knowledge, Starboard Value LP determined to retain Mr. George as an advisor in connection with its investment in [Bloomin’],” Starboard wrote in the filing.

Starboard and George know each other well. He was at Darden when Starboard took an activist stake there in 2014 and replaced the entire board with hand-picked directors. It also put George in charge of fixing Darden’s operations, an area of key concern for the investor.

Now, Starboard has taken a nearly 10% stake in Bloomin’ and is pushing for changes at the company. Tampa-based Bloomin’, which owns Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s Italian Grill and other brands, is one of the largest full-service restaurant companies in the U.S. with more than 1,000 locations. But it has been outpaced by larger competitors like Olive Garden and Texas Roadhouse coming out of the pandemic, and Starboard views it as undervalued. 

Just weeks after Starboard revealed its stake in Bloomin’, the company reshuffled its board. Chairman Jim Craigie retired after 10 years and was replaced by fellow director R. Michael Mohan. Rohit Lal, EVP and CIO for trucking company Saia Inc., also joined the board.

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