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Activist investor boosts Steak n Shake holding

September 10, 2007
A group led by an aggressive, 29-year-old investor from Texas has boosted its stake in the struggling Steak n Shake Co. from 5.8 percent to 6.7 percent, according to a regulatory filing.

Sardar Biglari, who runs San Antonio-based Lion Fund, began acquiring Steak n Shake shares this spring.

Biglari and affiliates-including Western Sizzlin Corp., the Virginia-based steakhouse chain where he serves as chairman and CEO-scarfed up tens of thousands of additional Steak n Shake shares in the past few weeks.

He has not commented publicly on the investment. However, an August regulatory filing said that he and a colleague are seeking board seats. The filing says that the pair met with Chairman Alan Gilman on Aug. 13 to discuss "the business, operations and future plans of the company."

Biglari has thrown his weight around at other restaurant companies where he has invested, including Applebee's International. In July, he expressed outrage after Applebee's agreed to be acquired by IHOP Corp. for 1.9 billion-a price he called way too low.

Another activist investor also is scooping up Steak n Shake shares this summer. In June, a Dallas-based group said it had acquired 9.4 percent of the company and wanted to explore an acquisition or other "potential transactions to maximize shareholder value."

The shareholder maneuvering is occurring at a time of great tumult for Steak n Shake. In August, Peter Dunn resigned as CEO following eight straight quarters of declining same-store sales.

More recently,
Steak n Shake Co. hired the Wall Street firm Merrill Lynch & Co. as a financial adviser to help examine "potential opportunities."

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

Steak n Shake shares were trading at midmorning at $15.81, up 23 cents on the day. The shares are down 10 percent since the start of the year.
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