The Nashville-based restaurant chain asked a judge to subpoena Yahoo! to find the identities of the people who posted the messages about Shoney's poor financial performance. That's the first step toward suing them for what they wrote.
Postings discussed the closing of poorly performing restaurants and possible bankruptcy, according to the lawsuit filed Friday in Davidson County Chancery Court. "It's only been 18 months and same-store sales are only declining 11 percent in real terms," reads a March 7 posting, as cited in the lawsuit. "It may be the highest decline ever but we are on the right track -- only 18 months into the turnaround."
The message is attributed to "bodnar and schoenbaum." J. Michael Bodnar is the company's president and chief executive officer; Raymond Schoenbaum is chairman of the board and son of the company's co-founder. The two have been leading the effort to revive the company, which has experienced declining sales and stock prices for several years. Shoney's shares once traded at $27 but closed Friday at $2.25 on the New York Stock Exchange.
Other aliases were "truthdet" and Ray Danner, retired Shoney's co-founder and the company's largest shareholder, according to the lawsuit. "It is not our intention to prohibit criticism or personal opinion about the company, but we have an obligation to protect confidential and proprietary information about Shoney's Inc., which has appeared on the Yahoo! message board," said spokeswoman Betty J. Marshall.
Shoney's operates and franchises about 1,200 Shoney's, Captain D's, Pargo's and Fifth Quarter restaurants in 28 states.
The company, which announced a first-quarter loss of $15.9m (£9.7m) last month, closed 104 restaurants last year and announced the closure of 47 more this year.