Chris Sullivan, one of Outback Steakhouse’s four co-founders, resigned from Bloomin’ Brands Inc.’s board of directors, according to a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing. The move is effective immediately, and the size of the board will be reduced to seven, the company said.
Bob Basham, Sullivan, Trudy Cooper, and Tim Gannon founded Outback in 1988. Gannon, Basham, and Sullivan created Bloomin’s predecessor, OSI Restaurant Partners, Inc., in 1987. The company’s initial public offering came in 1991.
Sullivan served as a director of Outback and subsequent companies since then, and was CEO from 1991 until March 2005. He was the longest serving director on Bloomin’s board.
Sullivan confirmed the news to the Tampa Bay Business Journal.
“All is good with [Bloomin' Brands] and I am going to focus on several opportunities that I am currently involved with," he told the Tampa Bay Business Journal in an email.
Sullivan will remain a shareholder in Bloomin’ Brands, where he controls 1.2 million shares, or 1.17 percent of the total stock outstanding. He’s currently the chairman of ConSul Partners LLC, a Tampa Bay firm helping develop and expand the Metro Diner and Besito Mexican concepts.
Sullivan, who was 69 years old when Bloomin’ issued its proxy statement earlier in the year, also told the Tampa Bay Business Journal, “Given the current situation with the activist shareholder I am not in a position to comment further on [Bloomin' Brands].”
Bloomin’ Brands could be preparing for an eventful year. In November, activist hedge fund Jana Partners announced an 8.7 percent stake in the casual dining company. It revealed in a securities filling that with the assistance of the other reporting persons, it intends to have discussions with Bloomin’s board of directors and management regarding topics, including “a review of strategic alternatives including exploring a sale” of the company.
Jana is also the fund that took a stake in Whole Foods Market earlier in the year. In that case, like Bloomin’, Jana pushed Whole Foods to explore strategic alternatives. On June 16, Amazon sent a shock wave through foodservice with its $13.7 billion purchase of the supermarket behemoth.
Outback reported its first quarter of improved traffic since 2016 in November when it posted an increase of 0.1 percent in Q3. Same-store sales were up 0.6 percent at the chain. They were down at Bloomin’s other brands: Carrabba’s fell 2.8 percent; Bonefish 4.3 percent; and Fleming’s 1 percent. Bloomin’ credited 1 percent of Outback’s decrease to hurricanes Harvey and Irma.