Once upon a time, say from 1995 through 2002, there was no better place to be come chow time than the Olive Garden. Oh, the unlimited soup, salad and breadsticks! The pastas, whose recipes were pretend-learned at the maybe-not-so-much-extant Culinary Institute of Tuscany! The shrimp scampi, rivaled only by OG’s sister restaurant and frequent neighbor, Red Lobster.

Well, things have gone somewhat downhill since those carefree salad days, and now the OG is a millstone around the neck of its owner, Darden Restaurants. Both because it is not growing as fast as such Darden gems like Bahama Breeze and LongHorn Steakhouse and Eddie V’s Prime Seafood, and because it has attracted the attention of hedge-fund rabble-rousers Barington Capital Group and Starboard Value.

To fend off these advances, Darden has suggested spinning off Red Lobster—and Red Lobster alone. This will not do for Barington and Starboard Value, who propose much more radical surgery, including a real-estate spinoff, but, most importantly, keeping the largest purveyors of shrimp scampi in the U.S. under one roof. And that is something Brad Blum, Olive Garden president from 1995 to 2002, can get behind.

A hedge fund targeting Darden Restaurants has hired a former president of Olive Garden, one of the company’s major chains.

Brad Blum, now a Winter Park restaurant executive, is working as an adviser to Starboard Value, according to documents filed Thursday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission….

Starboard is paying Blum $50,000 in an agreement entered into Wednesday. Blum will use the proceeds from that compensation to acquire Darden stock….

The move could help Starboard gain more insight into Darden, where Blum worked from 1995 to 2002. Blum could end up on Darden’s board as a result, said Mark Kalinowski, a restaurant analyst for Janney Capital Markets.

Hiring Blum was “a very smart thing for Starboard to do,” Kalinowski said. “If you’re going to try to find an ally that can help you shake Darden up a little bit, this is exactly the type of person you should be seeking out.”

Former Olive Garden president joins hedge fund battling Darden [Orlando Sentinel]

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Comments (11)

  1. Posted by Sanford Horn | February 21, 2014 at 2:22 PM

    Here's why I no longer patronize ANY Darden-owned establishments: http://sanfordspeaksout.blogspot.com/2011/10/loya

  2. Posted by Lavazza | February 21, 2014 at 2:31 PM

    Hell yeah! Darden shitholes are owned by diegos with wives with harry legs and the bushes of bushes!

  3. Posted by guest | February 21, 2014 at 2:51 PM

    absolutely loving gasparino's apparent inability to grasp sarcasm re this post happening on twitter

  4. Posted by guest | February 21, 2014 at 2:51 PM

    he's a slow on, our cg.

  5. Posted by Shaz's beard | February 21, 2014 at 3:06 PM

    3 paragraphs from Shazzy? I think Mommy Shaz might have sold all the Ritalin

  6. Posted by Guest | February 21, 2014 at 3:56 PM

    Oh the salad days of the dotcom boom…

  7. Posted by Screw the Chains | February 21, 2014 at 5:33 PM

    If you are anywhere in the Pizza Belt (Greater Philly to Greater Boston) there is no sane reason to eat there. You'll get a better meal, and bang for the bucks with any Joe's, Sal's, etc you can locally find.

  8. Posted by Guest | February 21, 2014 at 7:49 PM

    Thinking of Boston Pizza made me puke in my mouth a bit.

    -Former Bostonian Student

  9. Posted by Guest | February 21, 2014 at 11:16 PM

    In hindsight, Pinocs and Reginas are pretty awesome, but otherwise all shit.

  10. Posted by Frivchannel.com | February 22, 2014 at 7:10 AM

    Excellent post, you have pointed out some wonderful details. Thank you

  11. Posted by Good riddance | February 22, 2014 at 10:19 AM

    If a chain ever deserved to die, it's Olive Garden