Olive Garden parent company Darden Restaurants Inc. announced Friday the retirement of CEO Gene Lee, who will transition out of his role on May 29, 2022. The Darden board unanimously elected current chief operating officer Ricardo Cardenas as the next CEO, as well as a member of the Board effective May 30, 2022.
"The Board and I are delighted that Rick will serve as Darden's next CEO," Lee said in a statement. "He has deep knowledge of our company and the industry and has been a valued strategic thought partner to me and the senior management team. I am confident that he has the integrity, vision and leadership skills necessary to ensure Darden and its brands continue to successfully grow and be of service to our team members, our guests and our shareholders."
After retirement, Lee will serve on the board in a non-executive capacity and will stand for re-election next year.
Cardenas has been with Darden for 20 years in multiple roles. Most recently, he served as president and COO of Darden since January of this year. Before that, he was CFO of the restaurant company for five years and previously has held multiple executive financial positions within Darden’s brands.
I was incredibly fortunate to work with each of Darden's previous CEOs, so I have a strong appreciation for the legacy of leadership I am inheriting,” Cardenas said. “By upholding our commitment to operational excellence and maximizing the power of the Darden platform, we will continue to execute our strategy to drive growth and shareholder value."
Darden Restaurants is the parent company of Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen, Yard House, The Capital Grille, Seasons 52, Bahama Breeze and Eddie V's.
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