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Darden Restaurants deals off its 706-unit Red Lobster chain

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Struggling Darden Restaurants Inc. has become lobster-free. The Orlando-based corporation today announced completion of a nearly $2.1 billion sale of its 706-unit Red Lobster casual dining brand to Golden Gate Capital. Red Lobster restaurants in Upstate New York are located in Colonie, Yonkers, Scarsdale, Queensbury, Vestal, Horseheads, Buffalo, Williamsville, Amherst, Rochester, Syracuse, Liverpool, Nanuet, Middletown, Poughkeepsie and New Hartford. Locations and contact information are available here.

The announcement said about $1 billion of the net cash proceeds of the deal, preliminarily announced in May, will be used to retire outstanding debt. The remaining net proceeds of $500 million to $600 million are to be used for a new share repurchase program of up to $700 million in fiscal 2015.

Darden still owns a variety of restaurant brands across the country, including the Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Bahama Breeze, Seasons 52, The Capital Grille, Eddie V's and Yard House. Golden Gate Capital has California Pizza Kitchen and On the Border casual dining brands and has invested in and sold Romano’s Macaroni Grill.

Darden has said it plans to continue making changes to its troubled 837-unit Olive Garden line, including technology, menu and design.

“The completion of this transaction marks an important milestone in the actions we are taking to improve our operations, reduce costs and focus on opportunities with the highest value-creating potential,” said Clarence Otis, Darden's chairman and chief executive, in a statement. “While we still have work to do, we are making progress in our efforts to enhance performance and shareholder value."