Barington Wants Independent Darden Chairman

Feb 4 2014 | 11:42am ET

Activist hedge fund Barington Capital Group is turning the screws on Darden Restaurants, calling on the company to strip its chairman and CEO of the former title.

Barington last year called on Darden to spin off its Olive Garden and Red Lobster franchises to focus on its smaller but faster-growing chains. The hedge fund also wants Darden to split off its real-estate holdings, and to cut costs by between $100 million and $150 million. Darden in December announced that it would spin-off Red Lobster, a move Barington called "incomplete and inadequate."

Now, Barington's added another demand: for the appointment of an independent chairman. The post is currently held by Darden CEO Clarence Otis.

"We believe that the board should immediately appoint an independent chairman," Barington chief James Mitarotonda said on a conference call last week. The move would protect shareholder interests, he said.

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