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CEO Transition for Brinker

Zacks Equity Research

Doug Brooks, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and President of Brinker International, Inc. (EAT) recently announced his intention to step down from the post effective December 31, 2012. Concurrently, the company also announced Wyman Roberts as his successor, who will take over the reins effectively from January 1, 2013.

Doug Brooks joined Brinker 35 years ago as a manager. His tenure oversaw the increase from a modest three restaurants in one state to 1,585 restaurants globally, generating around $2.8 billion of revenue annually. To ensure a successful transition of leadership to Roberts, Brooks will continue to serve as chairman of the board of the company through December 2013.

Wyman Roberts has been associated with Brinker since August 2005. Currently, he is the President of Brinker’s brand Chili's Grill & Bar. However, he will retain this position along with the new responsibilities. He has previously served Brinker as Chief Marketing Officer and President of Maggiano's Little Italy brand.

Prior to joining Brinker, Roberts served NBC’s Universal Parks & Resorts – a subsidiary of General Electric Company (GE) and Comcast Corporation (CMCSK), as Executive VP and CMO and contributed to growth of the company’s market share and revenues. Apart from this, he has held several senior level positions over 17 years at Brinker’s peer company – Darden Restaurants Inc. (DRI).

With his vast know-how and expertise over 20 years in the restaurant industry, Roberts can easily be tagged as a veteran in this sector. With  proven strategy development, operation, finance and brand building background, we expect him to provide meaningful support to Brinker. Roberts' contribution to growth of Chili's Grill & Bar has been noteworthy. Total sales at Chili's Grill & Bar restaurant surged 2.7% year over year in the most recent quarter and comparable restaurant sales at the brand climbed up 2.8% for the sixth consecutive quarter.

As a point of reference, several restaurant peers of Brinker have recently seen significant management changes. The founder and CEO of Ruby Tuesday Inc. (RT), Sandy Beall, announced his intention to bow out from management and the Board. In addition, Jack in the Box Inc. (JACK) also announced the retirement of President and CEO, Gary J. Beisler, of one of its subsidiaries.

Brinker recently reported first-quarter 2013 adjusted earnings of 37 cents per share, lagging the Zacks Consensus Estimate by a penny, but increasing 23.3% from the year-ago quarter earnings of 30 cents per share. At the end of the quarter, Brinker operated 1,585 restaurants, of which 1,274 were Chili’s, 44 were Maggiano's and 267 were international franchised restaurants.

We currently have long-term ‘Outperform’ recommendation on Brinker. It carries a short-term Zacks #3 Rank (Hold).

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