Cracker Barrel backs incoming chairman Bradford

LEBANON, Tenn. -- Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc. defended its incoming chairman on Tuesday, saying statements it made about James Bradford's background were not clear, but Bradford never misrepresented himself and his experience is "beyond reproach."

The restaurant chain said it "regrets any misunderstanding" about Bradford and urged investors to west aside allegations from Sardar Biglari, the company's biggest shareholder.

On Monday Biglari accused Cracker Barrel of misrepresenting Bradford's background. In a letter sent to shareholders last week, Cracker Barrel referred to him as "a former NYSE company CEO." Cracker Barrel confirmed Tuesday that Bradford was never the CEO of a company that was actively being traded on the New York Stock Exchange, but that he was the president and CEO of a company that had previously been traded on the NYSE.

Cracker Barrel said Bradford was hired by glass manufacturer and fabricator AFG Industries in 1984. AFG was publicly traded for a time but was taken private in 1998. Bradford became president and CEO of the company in 1992 and held those roles until 1999. He then became president and CEO of United Glass Corp. and held that post until 2001.

"Mr. Bradford did not represent to the company's board that AFG was publicly traded during the time he served as CEO of that company," Cracker Barrel said in a press release. "However, the wording of the company's proxy statement and subsequent statements was presented in a manner that suggested the contrary."

Bradford has been on Cracker Barrel's board of directors since July 2011. In August the company said that Chairman Michael Woodhouse will retire in early November and Bradford will become the next chairman.

Sardar Biglari's company, Biglari Holdings, owns the Steak `n Shake and Western Sizzlin restaurant chains. He is a minority shareholder in Cracker Barrel and has been pushing for changes on the board. He is running for a spot on the board for the second consecutive year, and Biglari Holdings Vice Chairman Phil Cooley is also running for a seat on the board this year.

Cracker Barrel has 620 company-owned restaurants in 42 states. Shareholders will select the company's directors at its annual meeting on Nov. 15.

Cracker Barrel shares fell 82 cents to close at $66.65.