Burger King Corporation late yesterday announced the appointment of Bradley D. Blum, vice chairman of Darden Restaurants (NYSE: DRI), as its new chief executive officer. The new appoinment comes on the heels of the purchase of Burger King completed last Friday by the investment group triad of Texas Pacific Group, Bain Capital and Goldman Sachs Capital Partners.

“The Burger King company and its products offer both opportunities and challenges,” said Bradley D. Blum. “Throughout my career, I have found inspiration in taking on large challenges. There is something exhilarating in working with a talented team to achieve new levels of performance. This is what I look forward to at Burger King.”

Blum, 48, is widely known in the casual dining industry for his leadership at Olive Garden. Under Blum’s direction, Olive Garden has reported 33 consecutive quarters of same-store sales increases. During Blum’s tenure, the company achieved record levels of guest satisfaction ratings while significantly reducing management and employee turnover.

No doubt Blum was chosen by the ailing Home of the Whopper for his past turnaround success. He was recruited by Darden in 1994 to reverse the double-digit declines in same-restaurant sales at Olive Garden and the greater than 50% fall in operating profits. Olive Garden’s average annual sales increased from $2.5 million in 1996 to $4 million in 2002. Operating profits have increased more than six-fold since the turnaround began.

“We are pleased to have attracted an outstanding restaurant professional… to lead the Burger King team,” said John Dasburg, chairman of Burger King. “His extensive restaurant operations experience will be invaluable to Burger King. He is an extraordinary executive with proven turnaround expertise and one of the most enviable track records in the industry.”

The National Franchisee Association, the largest organization of Burger King franchisees, expressed their approval of Blum. “We are very pleased that Burger King has appointed such a highly qualified industry veteran to lead the Burger King system,” said National Franchisee Association Chairman Julian E. Josephson.

Darden Restaurants is the owner and operator of the Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Bahama Breeze and Smokey Bones BBQ Sports Bar concepts.

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