Sardar Biglari Taking a Page from Buffett for His Own Path

At the grand opening of a Steak ’n Shake Signature in Midtown Manhattan last month, Sardar Biglari, the fast-food chain’s chief executive, tried his best to look happy. Tall and well dressed, with slicked-back hair and a Chopard watch, Mr. Biglari seemed every bit the young Wall Street tycoon as he joined his employees in a ribbon-cutting cheer: “Steak ’n Shake is great! Steak ’n Shake is great!”

It was something of a mood shift for Mr. Biglari, who just three weeks earlier had been defeated in one of the biggest battles of his short career. An upstart investor who has become known for knock-down, drag-out proxy fights, Mr. Biglari, 34, lost an election to the board of Cracker Barrel, the restaurant chain based in Tennessee. The ordeal involved searing letters, a contentious board election and no shortage of harsh words — the same playbook he used to gain control of Steak ’n Shake in 2008.

Mr. Biglari, the chairman of Biglari Holdings, the publicly traded investment vehicle that controls Steak ’n Shake and several other businesses, is one of a small army of investors who have styled themselves after Warren E. Buffett, the celebrated chairman of Berkshire Hathaway.

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