October 10, 2014 Okapi in BuzzFeed on Darden Restaurants Proxy Contest
It was an annual shareholder meeting that was essentially over before it began, as the activist hedge fund Starboard Value replaced all 12 board members of Darden Restaurants, owner of Olive Garden, Bahama Breeze, and other casual dining chains.
At the JW Marriott here, just a few miles from Darden’s headquarters, Starboard representatives, proxy solicitors and about 60 Darden shareholders began filing into a small ground level conference room just before the meeting’s 9 a.m. start time. Voting on all 12 open board seats began at 9:03 a.m. and closed less than a half an hour later. By 9:40 a.m., preliminary votes showed that Starboard had prevailed, unseating the entire Darden board—a conclusion to a nearly 10 month saga between the activist hedge fund and Darden that had seemed increasingly likely in recent weeks.
As members of the Starboard team exited the meeting room, Bruce Goldfarb, president and CEO of Okapi Partners, Starboard’s proxy solicitor, called the results “just a huge, monumental victory” and said that Smith and the new board had already set to work on improving things at Darden Restaurants.