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Cracker Barrel says proxy firms back its nominees

LEBANON, Tenn. (AP) -- Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc. said Monday that two top proxy firms have recommended that the company's shareholders vote in favor of its slate of nominees to its board, rejecting nominees submitted by an activist stockholder.

The Lebanon, Tenn.-based restaurant chain said that both Institutional Shareholder Services and Glass, Lewis & Co. support its slate of nominees. Shareholders will vote at a meeting set for Nov. 15.

Sardar Biglari, who has an 18 percent stake in Cracker Barrel, has been pressing for changes in the company's board for some time. His firm, Biglari Holdings Inc., owns the Steak 'n Shake and Western Sizzlin restaurant chains.

Biglari ran for a seat on Cracker Barrel's board at the company's annual meeting last year, but failed to be elected. This year, Biglari is again seeking a seat for himself, as is Phil Cooley, vice chairman of Biglari Holdings.

Cracker Barrel offered Biglari a chance in September to nominate two other directors to its board, saying there were conflicts of interest, as well as legal and other issues that prevented them from being suitable selections. The move was dismissed by Biglari as a "faux offer."

Cracker Barrel on Monday again urged shareholders to elect its own nominees to the board and back a shareholder rights plan intended to protect against a hostile takeover.

Cracker Barrel shares rose 83 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $64.28 in afternoon trading. Shares are up about 50 percent over the past 12 months.