Outback CFO Cites Accounting "Lunacy" for Retirement

Another chief financial officer (CFO) is not big news. Then again, most CFO’s don’t give the current regulatory environment as the reason for their retirement. That’s exactly what Robert Merritt, CFO for Outback Steakhouse, Inc., did when he announced at the end of an earnings conference call that he would be retiring next month.

Merritt, whom many on Wall Street regard as one of the best CFOs in the restaurant industry, noted that more than 150 companies have restated financial results following a letter from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in early February clarifying accounting rules regarding rents, property improvements and leases.

“Reaction from the media that these companies were run by crooks who were cooking the books is disturbing,” Merritt told the Associated Press (AP).

Merritt says he has been “spending more time and resources on regulatory matters than on supporting company” during the last couple of years.

“Recent lunacy over lease accounting took me past the breaking point,” Merritt admitted to AP.

On Thursday, Outback, which includes Outback Steakhouses, Carrabba’s Italian Grills, Bonefish Grills, Flemings Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bars, Roys, Lee Roy Selmon’s, Paul Lee’s Chinese Kitchen, and Cheeseburger in Paradise, posted a fifth straight quarter of disappointing results.

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