Bloomin' Brands reshuffles board after Starboard takes big stake

Chairman Jim Craigie will be replaced by fellow member R. Michael Mohan, and Rohit Lal, CIO of trucking company Saia, is joining the board.
Activist investor Starboard Value owns about 10% of Bloomin' Brands. | Photo: Shutterstock

Bloomin’ Brands is making changes to its board of directors just over a week after activist investor Starboard Value revealed a 10% stake in the company.

The owner of Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s Italian Grill and other brands said in an SEC filing Monday that Chairman Jim Craigie is retiring after 10 years on the board. He will be replaced by fellow director R. Michael Mohan, who joined in 2017.

The board is also getting a new, tech-focused member in Rohit Lal, EVP and CIO for trucking company Saia Inc.

In an SEC filing, Bloomin’ said the moves are “part of the Company’s ongoing Board refreshment and succession planning, and its commitment to good corporate governance.”

They also come as Starboard signals it wants changes at Bloomin’, which it believes is undervalued despite being one of the largest full-service restaurant companies in the U.S. Those changes could include new leadership, according to an SEC filing earlier this month. 

Starboard is a formidable activist, having engineered successful turnarounds at Darden Restaurants and Papa Johns in the past. Part of those efforts included strategic board changes. At Darden, Starboard managed to replace the entire board with hand-picked successors.

At Bloomin’, the outgoing Craigie is the former CEO of household goods maker Church & Dwight, and was also CEO of Spalding and EVP of Kraft Foods. He joined the board in 2013.

His successor, Mohan, spent more than 17 years at Best Buy in merchandising, marketing and operations roles, eventually becoming its COO. 

“I’m honored to assume the role of Chairman and I look forward to continuing to work closely with my fellow directors and the leadership team in supporting the company’s initiatives to elevate the customer experience, deliver sustainable sales and profit growth and drive shareholder value,” Mohan said in a statement.

Lal has led the IT department at Johns Creek, Ga.-based Saia for more than six years. He specializes in “transforming IT systems and cultures” and using data to make decisions, particularly around customer satisfaction, productivity and asset utilization, according to the filing. 

“Rohit’s proven success will help guide the digital transformation we have underway,” Bloomin’ CEO Dave Deno said in a statement. “We look forward to his insights and expertise as we continue to drive strategies that maximize customer-facing experiences.”

Bloomin’s other board members are Deno; David Fitzjohn, chairman of the board at Pizza Hut U.K.; John Gainor, former CEO of International Dairy Queen; Lawrence Jackson, senior advisor for New Mountain Capital and chairman of the board at SourceMark; Julie Kunkel, former partner in financial accounting advisory services at Ernst & Young; Tara Walpert Levy, VP of Americas at YouTube; John Mahoney, former CFO and retired vice chairman of Staples; and Melanie Marein-Efron, CFO of Urban Outfitters.

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