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Clarence Otis Jr
Clarence Otis Jr Clarence Otis Jr


Clarence Otis, Jr ( born April 11, 1956 in Vicksburg, Mississippi, USA) is an American businessman and CEO of Darden Restaurants Otis was named the 11th most powerful person in Central Florida by the Orlando Sentinel in 2010 He has been a lawyer and businessman for more than twenty-years, has built a successful career as a restaurant executive at Darden Restaurants Although Otis’s career began as an attorney specializing in securities litigation, perhaps the years he spent as waiter working his way through law school led to his interest in the restaurant industry Nevertheless, he is the highest-ranking African American in Darden’s history to head a major division and later become chief executive officer (CEO) Born on April 11, 1956, in Vicksburg, Mississippi, Otis is a 1977 graduate of Williams College, with a Bachelors of Arts degree, and a member of Phi Beta Kappa He also graduated in 1980 from Stanford University Law School In 1981, Otis was admitted to the New York State bar Otis began his career as an associate with the New York law firm Donovan, Leisure, Newton & Irvine and then later at another New York law firm, Gordon, Hurwitz, Butowsky, Witzen, Shalov & Wein, specializing in securities litigation.

In 1987, he moved into investment banking From 1987 to 1990 Otis was the vice president for the public finance department of the First Boston Corporation, a publicly owned investment banking firm From 1991 to 1995, Otis was managing director and manager of Public Finance with Chemical Securities, Inc, in New York, now J P Morgan Securities, Inc He left a career in investment banking for one in corporate America In June 1995, he joined Darden Restaurants as vice president and first ever treasurer and was promoted to senior vice president, Investor Relations, and treasurer two years later At Darden, Otis is responsible for determining the mix of debt and equity the company will have, the length of the debt, and the kinds of securities the company should hold In March 2002, he became executive vice president of Darden as well as president of the Smokey Bones BBQ & Sports Bar Restaurants Division.

Darden Restaurants is a division that spun off from General Mills in 1995 Darden Restaurants, headquartered in Orlando, Florida, is the world’s largest casual dining company with 1,271 restaurants Darden, operating under Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Bahama Breeze, and Seasons 52 brands, is located in forty-nine states across the United States and Canada Great Expectations, Darden Restaurants’ 2003 annual report, indicates that Darden employs more than 140,000 workers and has an annual sales revenue of over $46 billion Smokey Bones accounted for $174 million of Darden’s revenue in 2004 Under Otis’s leadership, Smokey Bones has grown from thirty restaurants to approximately eighty restaurants Modest in his self-appraisal of the business world, Otis told T Holmes in Black Enterprise, “One thing you learn in the business world is that there is a certain amount of seasoning that’s required before you have the depth and breath of experience that you need to be a senior leader in a major company” Hard work and successful business strategies have paid off for Otis.

In December 2004, Otis succeeded Joe Lee as CEO of Darden Restaurants, making him the seventh African American to lead a Fortune 500 company In January 2004, Otis was appointed to the board of directors of VF Corporation The corporation is the world’s largest apparel company and leader in jeanswear, intimate apparel, playwear, workwear, and daypacks Commenting on the appointment, Mackey J McDonald cited his exceptionally diverse background and his experience in finance law and operations Cited in Holmes, McDonald said, “His experience in fostering innovation within his division and creating strong brand equity with consumers will dovetail perfectly with our own strengths and challenges” Otis contributes his success to his approach to management, which is to build and maintain a strong leadership team According to Carl Brooks, president of the executive Leadership Council, Otis has displayed excellent leadership in all of the positions he has held Darden Restaurants is now the world’s largest casual dining restaurant, second only to McDonald’s Corporation In addition to serving on VF Corporation board of directors, Otis was elected an alumni trustee from 1999 to 2004 at Williams College.

In 1999 he was elected chair of the YMCA of Central Florida and also a board member for Enterprise Florida.

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