(Buffalo Wild Wings on Facebook)
Buffalo Wild Wings' CEO is leaving the company after an activist investor triumphed in a monthslong battle for the wings chain's board.
On Friday, Buffalo Wild Wings announced Sally Smith would step down at the end of 2017 after more than 20 years at the company.
Less than an hour later, Marcato Capital Management announced that Buffalo Wild Wings' shareholders had elected all three of the activist investor's nominees to the company's board, including Mick McGuire, Marcato's founder and managing partner.
The end of Smith's leadership and the election of Marcato's nominees comes after months of disputes between the hedge fund and the restaurant company. McGuire kicked off the power struggle in August when he published an open letter accusing Buffalo Wild Wings' management of mismanaging the company.
The letter set off a brutal series of attacks and rebuttals. Marcato, which now owns about 10% of the company's shares, accused Buffalo Wild Wings of ripping off franchisees; Buffalo Wild Wings said McGuire had a "track record of losses in the boardroom."
With the moves, it now looks as if the activist investor could carry out its plan for the chain: more locations owned and operated by franchisees.
"We are very pleased that our fellow Buffalo Wild Wings shareholders recognize that additional change on the board is warranted to return Buffalo Wild Wings to a path of growth and long-term value creation," McGuire said in a statement. "We will bring the fresh perspectives, restaurant-industry expertise, and oversight the Buffalo Wild Wings board needs to spearhead improvements at the company."
In addition to McGuire, Buffalo Wild Wings shareholders nominated Scott Bergren, the former CEO of Pizza Hut, and Sam Rovit, the CEO of the food-service company CTI Foods, to the board.
"I am proud of Buffalo Wild Wings' tremendous success. We have made great strides in executing our strategic plan and continuing to innovate to stay ahead of the competition," Smith said in a statement. "I am confident that the company, including its excellent management and board, are solidly positioned for its next phase of growth and development."
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