New York • Darden Restaurants CEO and Chairman Clarence Otis is stepping down as the company fights to fix its flagship Olive Garden chain following its contested sale of Red Lobster.
Based in Orlando, the company also said Monday that it's changing its corporate policies to split the chairman and CEO roles. It appointed current lead independent director, Charles Ledsinger, Jr., as independent non-executive chairman, effective immediately.
Darden shares rose $2.03, or 4.5 percent, to $46.95 in after-hours trading.
Otis joined Darden in 1995, ascended to the CEO spot in late 2004 and became chairman a year later. His departure isn't entirely a surprise, given Darden's troubles. The company has been pressured to turn around declining sales at Olive Garden and Red Lobster. Customers had begun turning away from those chains as they cut back on spending during the recession.