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Bloomin’ Brands’ Liz Smith to surrender CEO job

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Liz Smith will surrender the CEO’s job at Outback Steakhouse parent Bloomin’ Brands to longtime Chief Financial and Administrative Officer Dave Deno on April 1 in what the company says was a planned succession.

Smith, who also holds the position of chairman, will assume the post of executive chairman of Bloomin’s board, which Deno will join as a director, the company said.

Deno’s financial and administrative duties will be assumed by Christopher Meyer, group VP of financial planning and analysis. Meyer will take the title of CFO and inherit Deno’s current second title of EVP. 

Smith has been CEO for 10 years, joining Bloomin’ while it was still known as OSI Restaurant Partners. It had been acquired two years earlier for $3.2 billion by the private-equity firms Bain Capital and Catterton Partners. The company had lost $739.4 million the year before Smith joined the company. She had left Avon Products, where she was president, after being bypassed for the CEO’s job at the cosmetics concern. 

Working closely with Deno, Smith engineered a turnaround at Bloomin’, which is also the parent of Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Bonefish Grill and Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar. 

“Liz joined the company in 2009, when the casual dining segment was facing unprecedented headwinds, and the brands needed a refresh,” Jim Craigie, Bloomin’ independent director, said in a statement. “Under her excellent leadership, the portfolio has transformed with strong brands and new and sustainable platforms for growth.”

Deno has been with Bloomin’ since 2012, joining it from the Best Buy chain of big-box electronics stores. Most of his career had been spent in the quick-service restaurant business for Taco Bell parent Yum Brands and Burger King.

“I have every confidence that under Dave’s leadership we will realize continued success,” Smith said in a statement.

Bloomin’ is the operator or franchisor of about 1,500 restaurants in 48 states and 20 countries. 

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