Big investor again pushes Wendy’s CEO, seeks sale

DUBLIN OHIO Wendy’s International Inc. [2] is facing pressure from its largest institutional shareholder to sell the No. 3 burger chain to the highest bidder and perhaps to seek a new chief executive, according to media reports. —

Boston-based Highfields Capital Management LP, which holds an 8.5-percent stake in Wendy’s [3], reportedly sent a letter this month to Wendy’s chairman James Pickett and other directors, pushing the company to be more aggressive in searching for buyers. —

“We strongly believe that an auction to the highest bidder is the best way for the current board and management to maximize the value of the business,” the firm was quoted as writing. “Let the shareholders get paid for the operational upside that clearly exists but cannot be delivered by current management and provide the franchisees with the marketing and cost support they deserve,” the firm also reportedly said. —

Wendy’s last month said it had begun to explore strategic alternatives for the company, including a possible sale, merger, or changes to its strategic plan or capital structure. —

The Highfields letter was not filed with securities regulators. The company did not return calls seeking comment by presstime. —

Wendy’s spokesman Denny Lynch said its board of directors was not planning to provide updates on the progress of the strategic review “until warranted.” —

Highfields Capital’s letter also was said to have criticized the appointment last year of Wendy’s former chief financial officer Kerrii B. Anderson as chief executive, though that move had been applauded initially on Wall Street. —

The new criticisms of Wendy’s were reminiscent of divestiture pressures previously exerted on the company from other large investors, which precipitated the departure of Anderson’s predecessor, Jack Schuessler. —