Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Clarence Otis, Jr.

Did you know that Clarence Otis Jr., the CEO of Darden Restaurants Inc., one of the largest restaurant chains, Olive Garden and Red Lobster, is an African-American man? Darden Restaurants Inc. is one of the largest casual dining operators in the nation. The firm operates nearly 1,400 company-owned restaurants coast to coast, serving 300 million meals annually. Darden employs 150,000 workers and has annual revenues of $6 billion.

Mr. Otis was born in Vicksburg , Mississippi . His family and he moved to Los Angeles when he was 6 years old. His father was a high school dropout who worked as a janitor. The family lived in Watts at the time of the 1965 riots. As a teenager they moved to Compton.

In the post-Watts period, Mr. Otis recalls being stopped and questioned by police several times a year because of the color of his skin. A high school guidance counselor recommended him for a scholarship at Williams College, the highly selective liberal arts institution in Massachusetts. Otis graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Williams and went on to earn a law degree at Stanford. Otis landed on Wall Street as a merger and acquisitions attorney for J.P. Morgan Securities. He joined Darden Restaurants in 1995 as corporate treasurer. Clarence Otis Jr. became CEO in 2004.

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