Orlando, Fla. — Darden Restaurants, Inc. has announced that Eugene (Gene) I. Lee, Jr., chairman and chief executive officer, will retire as CEO effective May 29, 2022. Lee will continue to serve on Darden’s board of directors as executive chairman until the 2022 Annual Meeting of Shareholders. At that time, Lee is expected to stand for re-election to the board and continue to serve as chairman in a non-executive capacity.
The board has unanimously elected Ricardo (Rick) Cardenas, Darden’s current president and chief operating officer, as chief executive officer, 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 says. “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.”
Cardenas was named president and COO in January 2021. Previously, he served as Darden’s chief financial officer since March 2016. Prior to that, he served as senior vice president and chief strategy officer. Cardenas began his career with Darden as an hourly team member in 1984, before joining the restaurant support center team in 1992.
Darden is a restaurant company featuring a portfolio of differentiated brands that include Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen, Yard House, The Capital Grille, Seasons 52, Bahama Breeze and Eddie V’s. For more information, visit www.darden.com.
SOURCE: Darden Restaurants, Inc.