DUBLIN, Ohio - In the past year, Wendy's International Inc. has spun off its Tim Hortons coffee-and-doughnut chain, dumped its money-losing Baja Fresh Mexican Grill and laid off employees at its corporate office.
The company may now seek a boost to its stock price with another tactic - selling off what's left of the nation's third-largest hamburger chain.
"We've had a lot of initiatives and we've executed them well over the last two years," Chief Executive Kerrii Anderson said. "That's created a tremendous amount of value over the last 12 months, and we have a responsibility to continue to create value."
The company announced Wednesday that a special board committee had been formed to study options for the company, including a possible sale.
The developments mark a whirlwind year for Ms. Anderson, who took over as chief executive after longtime CEO Jack Schuessler abruptly retired last year. She completed a flurry of transactions, including Tim Hortons' initial public offering and eventual spin off, and quickly rededicated the chain to promoting the core business of signature square hamburgers and the Frosty, a dessert in a cup.
"We believe the company has done a good job of delivering value to the shareholders, and the formation of this special committee is just another step in our continuing efforts to further enhance value for our shareholders," board chairman James V. Pickett told investors Thursday at the company's annual meeting, held at the corporate headquarters in this Columbus suburb.
Shareholders, during what might have been the company's last annual meeting, were confident the board would make the right decision.
"I think it could be a good thing to sell," shareholder Ray Vawter said. "I've always admired them on their new product offerings, and they've always exhibited a lot of good new thinking."
Billionaire investor Nelson Peltz's Trian Partners, which owns a big chunk of Wendy's stock, has pushed the company to make changes to boost its shares. His company Triarc Cos. controls fast-food chain Arby's.
While the newly formed committee might decide against a sale, analysts believe that is the probable outcome for Wendy's.
"We believe the sale of Wendy's to private equity, rather than a strategic buyer, is the most likely scenario," but any sale probably would not be completed by the end of the year, analyst Larry Miller of RBC Capital Markets said in a note Thursday. He pegged the value of the company at $38 a share.
There is no timeline for the committee to come to a decision, Ms. Anderson said.
The sale would be a disappointment for the restaurant's namesake and daughter of founder Dave Thomas, Wendy Thomas, who attended the meeting along with her mother and siblings.
"I hope it doesn't happen, but everything is going to work out the way it's meant to be," said Wendy Thomas, who, along with her four siblings, owns 32 restaurants.
Another daughter, Molly Thomas, said, "I have an emotional tie, so yeah, if they sold the company, I'd be very upset."
Those ties are understood, and Ms. Anderson vowed that the board would continue to safeguard Dave Thomas' legacy.
"As emotionally involved as we (the board) think we are in this organization, they grew up with Wendy's. It's their baby. Will we consider them? We have to," she said. "But in the end the board has a responsibility to consider what's best for the shareholders."
Wendy's trails McDonald's Corp. and Burger King Holdings Inc. in the burger business, operating about 6,600 restaurants in the United States and abroad.