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O'Charley's CEO Burns to retire next year

NASHVILLE Tenn. O’Charley’s Inc., parent of the troubled O’Charley’s, Ninety Nine Restaurants and Stoney River Legendary Steaks casual-dining brands, said Tuesday that Gregory Burns, its chairman and chief executive, would retire next year, effective Feb. 12.

The announcement came as the company separately reported a new agreement between O’Charley’s and activist investor Crescendo Partners, which owns about 12 percent of the restaurant company’s stock and has been calling for change for more than a year.

The new deal between the two parties calls for the addition of a new board member nominated by Crescendo. The new director will replace an O’Charley’s board member — not designated by Crescendo — who is expected to retire, the companies said. Crescendo and O’Charley’s have been locked in a battle over control of the restaurant company, which for at least the past year has suffered against declining sales and profit. In March 2008, O’Charley’s expanded its board of directors to 11 members and appointed three Crescendo nominees as directors.

In its latest quarter ended in October, O’Charley’s posted a $66.8 million net loss on revenues of $209.6 million. The bottom line included a $48 million goodwill impairment charge. A year earlier, the October-ended quarterly results included a net loss of just $357,000 on revenues of $221 million.

O’Charley’s said chief financial officer Lawrence Hyatt has been named interim chief executive, while board members Richard Reiss Jr. and Douglas Benham will serve as lead independent director and chairman of the board’s executive committee, respectively. Benham is a foodservice veteran and the former chief executive at Arby’s Restaurant Group.

The board will initiate a nationwide search for Burns’ replacement, the company said.

Burns, who spent 25-years with the Nashville-based O’Charley’s Inc., oversaw much of the company’s growth. It now is composed of 371 restaurants under its three chains.

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