Jana Partners nominates directors at restaurant chain Bloomin' Brands

NEW YORK, Feb 3 (Reuters) - Activist hedge fund Jana Partners said on Monday that it plans to nominate several directors at Outback Steakhouse owner Bloomin’ Brands Inc, creating fresh pressure for the company as management continues to review its strategic focus.

The New York-based hedge fund told the company late last week that it plans to propose Scott Ostfeld, a partner and portfolio manager at Jana, and John Paul Gainor, a corporate director with experience in the casual dining market, as directors, Jana said in a filing on Monday. It said that it would propose Jennifer Fanjiang, Jana’s chief legal officer, as a third director if three board members stand for election.

Last year Jana, one of the industry’s most powerful activist hedge funds, said it planned to discuss strategic alternatives with management that could include a sale of the company or spinning off pieces.

Jana’s decision to nominate, made on Thursday, one day before a January 31 deadline, will give the hedge fund more flexibility to react after the Tampa, Florida-based company makes its strategic review public.

A Jana spokesman declined to comment. Bloomin’ Brands did not respond to a request for comment.

Five months ago, Jana said it had returned to Bloomin’ Brands for the second time in nearly two years to push for fresh changes after having reached a settlement with the company in 2018, which included getting a board seat.

Jana now owns 7.4%, or 6.4 million shares of Bloomin’ Brands, according to the filing. The news helped push Bloomin’ Brands shares up more than 2% on Monday morning to trade at $21.15.

Jana, founded by Barry Rosenstein two decades ago, has built a reputation for working collaboratively with target companies and rarely nominates directors. Last year its main fund gained 52%.

While Jana already has one seat on Bloomin’ Brands’ eight member board - Wendy Beck, a former chief financial officer at Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings - hedge funds often say that it is more productive to have more than one board seat. (Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)