Cracker Barrel investor Biglari pushes for sale, share repurchase

Cracker Barrel investor Biglari pushes for sale, share repurchase

Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc.’s largest shareholder, Biglari Capital, and its chief executive Sardar Biglari, said Tuesday in a letter filed with securities regulators that he would like to consider a bid for the family-dining restaurant and retail chain.

Sardar Biglari, whose San Antonio, Texas-based investment firm also owns and franchises the Steak ‘n Shake and Western Sizzlin’ restaurants, said the Lebanon, Tenn.-based Cracker Barrel’s “assets would be far more productive under our leadership than in the hands of present leadership.”

In the letter [3], he said he would be willing to lead a bidding process for Cracker Barrel if Tennessee law didn’t restrict such a transaction from a shareholder. Earlier in the month Biglari had urged the 625-unit Cracker Barrel’s board to consider strategic options [4], including a possible sale.

In the Christmas Eve letter to Cracker Barrel board chairman James W. Bradford, Biglari said his investment firm, which owns 19.9 percent of Cracker Barrel’s shares, was in talks with an investment bank to finance a possible deal. The letter gave no specifics.

A Cracker Barrel spokesperson said Tuesday the company would not comment.

Biglari also said he would consider selling his shares back to the company.

“We would consider selling our entire position because we would not want to leave our money in your care,” Biglari wrote. “The handling of the Duck Dynasty controversy is another example of poor judgment.”

During the past weekend, in the wake of controversial comments on race and homosexuality by a star of the A&E cable-television reality series “Duck Dynasty,” Cracker Barrel pulled some show-branded items from store shelves and then, after criticism, returned them to the retail lineup of goods.

Biglari also said that if the board didn’t respond to his suggestions he would consider calling for a special meeting of shareholders to push for a sale.

Cracker Barrel shareholders in November rebuffed Biglari’s third consecutive proxy fight for board seats at the family-dining company, and turned away his plan for a special $20 per share dividend.

In the first quarter ended Nov. 1, Cracker Barrel reported a 17.1-percent increase in profit compared with the previous year. The company said year-over-year traffic fell 0.1 percent, but the average check rose 2.9 percent. Cracker Barrel has units in 42 states.

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected] [5]
Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless [6]