Darden Restaurants CEO steps down

Clarence Otis, chairman and CEO of Darden Restaurants, is stepping down as the company fights to improve its flagship Olive Garden chain after the sale of Red Lobster.

The Orlando, Florida-based company announced changes in its corporate policies, including the splitting of chairman and CEO roles.

Darden announced the appointment of its current lead independent director, Charles Ledsinger, Jr., as independent non-executive chairman, effective immediately. Otis will continue to act as CEO until a successor is named, or until December 31, which is the latest he plans to stay.

Darden Restaurants has suffered shareholder scrutiny since failing to reverse falling sales at Olive Garden and Red Lobster, which was officially sold off on Monday to private equity firm Golden Gate Capital for $2.1 billion in cash.

Shareholders such as hedge fund Starboard Value condemned the selling of Red Lobster and accused the board of "abominable corporate governance." Starboard is now in the midst of kicking off a proxy contest aimed at unseating the company's entire board. Barington Capital Group, the smaller of the two largest hedge funds at Darden, supports the board. Story