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Buffalo Wild Wings’ CEO Retires Following Investor Pressure

June 2, 2017, 7:14 PM UTC
Buffalo Wild Wings Ahead of Earns
Pedestrians exit a Buffalo Wild Wings Inc. restaurant in San Ramon, California, U.S., on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014. Buffalo Wild Wings Inc. is expected to release earnings data on Feb. 4. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Photograph by David Paul Morris — Bloomberg via Getty Images

Buffalo Wild Wings (BWLD) said on Friday that Chief Executive Officer Sally Smith would retire before the end of the year and has withdrawn her candidacy as a board director at the annual shareholder meeting.

Smith’s move to step down comes as shareholder votes are still coming in that will decide if the company’s board candidates are able to beat back board nominations by activist hedge fund Marcato Capital Management.

Marcato, which owns 9.9% of the company, was not immediately available for comment.

The San Francisco-based hedge fund has campaigned for nearly a year to pressure Smith and the board to pursue strategies that the activist believes will boost the wing and beer chain’s stock price. Marcato, founded by ex-Pershing Square partner Mick McGuire, pressured Buffalo Wild Wings to force Smith to retire and for the company to run a CEO search.

Marcato’s board nominees at Friday’s shareholder meeting were McGuire, former Pizza Hut CEO Scott Bergren, restaurant industry veterans Lee Sanders and Sam Rovit, according to proxy materials.

Buffalo Wild Wings had nine directors up for election this year, three of whom Marcato targeted to replace: Cynthia Davis, Olivier Maggard, and Jerry Rose.

The other company nominees are Andre Fernandez, Janice Fields, Harry Lawton, Sam Rovit, and Harmit Singh.

Rovit is also a nominee on the company’s slate.

The final tally of the shareholder vote on the board election was not yet available.