Kingsbury appointment keeps Kohl's activists at bay
Kohl's should get a reprieve from activist pressure this proxy season after switching Tom Kingsbury's CEO status from interim to permanent.
Why it matters: Hedge fund Macellum Advisors, which ran a proxy contest against Kohl's last year and threatened another one this year, signed a multi-year standstill agreement with the retailer.
- A source familiar with the situation added that the decision should help the department store chain avoid a proxy fight from any activist, not just Macellum.
What they're saying: Ancora Holdings, which has been one of several hedge funds to call Kohl's strategy into question and was pushing for a new chair, did not respond to a request for comment on whether Kingsbury's appointment satisfied its own demands.
- Kohl's wrote in an email it would not elaborate beyond the press release on whether the company could face agitation from activists besides Macellum.
Catch up fast: Axios reported in September that Ancora, which was calling for change at the top, planned to push for Kingsbury as permanent CEO.
- In response at the time, Kohl's board said it fully supported then-CEO Michelle Gass, as well as her leadership team.
- In November, however, Kohl's announced Gass was leaving the role of her own accord to become president, and eventually CEO, of Levi's.
- Kingsbury, who already sat on the Kohl's board, was considered a logical choice given his success as CEO of discount retailer Burlington Stores.
What we're watching: In addition to Macellum and Ancora, Legion Partners and 4010 Capital have also pushed for changes at Kohl's in the past.
- How much time will Kingsbury, who has the confidence of Macellum and Ancora, be given to change the fortunes of the retailer and its investors?
- And if the M&A environment improves, will the new CEO revive shelved plans to sell the company?
The bottom line: Kohl's board and management have some breathing room to run the business without the distraction of activists.