Monday, August 13, 2012

Ruby Tuesday sets stage for bigger news

Ruby Tuesday stoked expectations today that P.F. Chang’s, a competing chain, may soon announce the appointment of a new president and director. Then again, the announcement of a new Ruby CEO may come first. If this sounds a bit confusing, buckle your seatbelts and follow along.

Ruby, a grill-and-bar chain with a sister Asian concept pitted against P.F. Chang’s Chinese Bistro, released a press release to hoot about its two new directors. One of them is 34-year veteran Lane Cardwell, identified in the release as having “most recently served as the President of P.F. Chang's China Bistro from 2011 to 2012.”  Note the past tense. I know I did. And that led to embarrassing geekiness in tracking down a little-noticed securities disclosure that Cardwell exited his post at Chang’s by mutual agreement on May 17.

But don’t feel bad for Lane if you missed it, too. Within a week, Chang’s had offered Cardwell an unspecified post in an “executive capacity” for another year, at a compensation level of $350,000.

It’s just salary; Cardwell opted to waive any equity compensation. In return, Chang’s agreed to unshackle Cardwell from his non-compete agreement.

Fast forward to today, when Ruby announced Cardwell’s appointment. He’s serving the chain as a director, not an executive. But that’s an exact parallel of how he ended up in Chang’s “C” suite. Plus he knows Ruby, having served as a consultant to the chain before taking his post at Chang’s.

It’d all be wild-hair speculation if it wasn’t for the announcement awhile back from Ruby founder and longtime CEO Sandy Beall, who said he would step down as soon a successor was selected.  

Will Cardwell be that heir apparent? We’ll keep an eye on the situation.

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