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Steak n Shake hires Merrill Lynch as financial adviser

August 23, 2007
Steak n Shake Co. has hired the Wall Street firm Merrill Lynch & Co. as a financial adviser to help examine "potential opportunities," the struggling Indianapolis-based hamburger chain said this evening.

Specifically, Merrill Lynch will advise a special committee of three independent directors that was appointed recently. The committee is helping interim CEO Alan Gilman and senior management with a strategic plan that involves simplifying initiatives, focusing on field leadership and "critically reviewing the company's cost structure."

The statement said the board has not set deadlines for the special committee, but that details of the strategic plan would be shared with stockholders in the near future.

The developments follow the abrupt Aug. 13 resignation of CEO Peter Dunn after the company announced its eighth straight quarter of declining same-store sales. The company operates more than 400 stores.

Two Dallas-based investment groups-HBK Investments and Lone Star Funds-disclosed in June that they had accumulated nearly 10 percent of the company and wanted to explore an acquisition or other "potential transactions to maximize shareholder value."

A investment group headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, disclosed in a regulatory filing Aug. 17 that it has amassed a 5.8-percent stake in The Steak n Shake Co. and wants two of its representatives added to the struggling company's board.

The group includes San Antonio-based Lion Fund and Western Sizzlin Corp., a steakhouse chain based in Virginia.

According to the filing, two members of the group met Aug. 13 with Gilman to discuss the company's operations and plans.

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