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Cheesecake Factory Chain's Chief Quits

September 26, 2003|Karen Robinson-Jacobs | Times Staff Writer

Fourteen months after taking over as president and chief operating officer of the Cheesecake Factory restaurants, Michael P. Berry resigned to "pursue other interests," the company said Thursday.

The restaurant unit is the largest division at Calabasas Hills-based Cheesecake Factory Inc. The casual dining chain, known for its oversize portions and textbook-sized menu, grew from 55 units to the current 66 under Berry.

Berry, 55, who previously served as president of Barnes & Noble Booksellers, a unit of Barnes & Noble Inc., and as senior vice president of operations for Walt Disney Co.'s Disneyland Resort and Downtown Disney, was not available for comment.

David Overton, Cheesecake Factory's founder and chief executive, said he and other executives would take over Berry's duties while the company searches for a replacement.

On a day when most major restaurant shares slumped, Cheesecake Factory's stock fell $1.46 to $36.66 on Thursday in Nasdaq trading, down from a 52-week high hit Wednesday.

Eric Wold, an analyst with Merriman Curhan Ford & Co., spoke to about a dozen of Cheesecake Factory's institutional investors, some of whom expressed concern that the abrupt departure "might be a signal that there may be something lurking out there, a larger operational issue," Wold said.

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