Activist investors seek ouster of Bed Bath & Beyond CEO; shares surge

By Reuters
March 26, 2019 Updated: March 27, 2019

Bed Bath & Beyond Inc.’s long-time Chief Executive Officer Steven Temares came under pressure on March 26 after activist investors called for his ouster and the replacement of the entire board, sending the company’s shares up as much as 30 percent.

An investor group comprising Legion Partners Asset Management LLC, Macellum Advisors GP LLC, and Ancora Advisors LLC disclosed a combined stake of about 5 percent in the company and also said it was seeking a review of options, including a sale, for all of the home furnishing retailer’s non-core brands.

The Wall Street Journal reported on March 25 that a possible sale could include brands such as Buy Buy Baby and Cost Plus World Market.

Bed Bath & Beyond has struggled to keep pace with changing consumer tastes and shopping habits over the years, with sales growth spiraling down to just 1.1 percent last year compared to over 22 percent in 2003 when Temares took over as CEO.

The company’s shares have fallen for the last five years, losing over 85 percent of their value. In contrast, peers Lowe’s Cos Inc. and Home Depot Inc. have gained 46 percent and 52 percent, respectively, over the same period.

“Irrespective of the elevated capital investment of the past several years (mostly in digital technology and fulfillment), management has been slow to invest in its stores … This will likely add credibility to any activist style campaign,” Raymond James analyst Bobby Griffin said.

The trio of investors also said excessive pay packages and a failure to hold management accountable necessitate a change in a majority of the board.

The group nominated 16 board candidates including former Gap Inc. executive Jeffrey Kirwan and former Pier 1 Imports Inc. CEO Alexander Smith.

Bed Bath & Beyond in response said it asked on several occasions over the past few weeks for Legion’s and Macellum’s suggestions for improving its business but the investors did not provide any and instead chose to publicly attack the company.

“Unfortunately, while our directors and management were seeking to engage in good faith, it appears that the Legion and Macellum representatives were merely seeking information to support their attack,” the company said.

Bed Bath & Beyond also said it is “undertaking a comprehensive transformation to evolve the foundational structure of the business, drive shareholder value and best position the company for long-term success.”

The company’s shares were last trading up 25 percent at $17.39 after touching a high of $18.09.