Risk Management

Outback CFO Resigns; Fires Parting Shot

''Recent lunacy over lease accounting'' is reportedly the reason behind Robert Merritt's departure.
Stephen TaubApril 22, 2005

Outback Steakhouse Inc. chief financial officer Robert Merritt announced his retirement during an earnings call on Thursday, blaming his departure on “recent lunacy over lease accounting, according to the Associated Press.

Merritt pointed out that more than 150 companies have recently restated their results after the Securities and Exchange Commission revised its opinion on how companies should account for leases, the AP reported. In February, the SEC issued a letter clarifying accounting practices for the amortization of rent payments, gains from improvements to property, and discounts written into certain leases.

Calling the situation a “fiasco,” Merritt reportedly added, “Reaction from the media that these companies are run by crooks who were cooking the books is disturbing.”

The AP noted that many Wall Street analysts regard Merritt as one of the best finance chiefs in the restaurant industry. For his part, added the wire service, Merritt lamented that for the past two years he has found himself “spending more time and resources on regulatory matters than supporting company” management.

The Tampa, Florida-based company did not immediately name a successor, according to the AP.