An activist investor is renewing a push to get department-store chain Kohl’s Inc. to take action to boost its lagging stock.
Macellum Advisors GP LLC, which has a roughly 5% stake in Kohl’s, has been urging the company to make changes including altering its board, people familiar with the matter said. Kohl’s has so far rejected Macellum’s request to add directors with retail experience or a shareholder to its board, the people said. The New York hedge fund, which was part of a group that ran a proxy fight at the retailer last year, now expects to do so again.
Kohl’s shares rose for the first several months of 2021 but are down roughly 20% since the activists reached a settlement agreement in April 2021 and are trading below where they were two decades ago. The Menomonee Falls, Wis., company has a market value of around $7.2 billion.
Macellum is telling Kohl’s that if it doesn’t change its board, the company should hire bankers to explore a sale or other transaction. Macellum has told the company it thinks there are potential buyers that have shown interest.
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Kohl’s said in a statement it continuously examines all opportunities for maximizing shareholder value and that its strong performance in 2021 demonstrated its strategy is working. It said it plans to share more details about its strategic initiatives and capital allocation plans at its investor day March 7.
Late last year, another activist hedge fund, New York-based Engine Capital LP, said it owned a roughly 1% stake and urged Kohl’s to explore a sale.
Over the past year, Kohl’s has made a number of changes, including reinstating a dividend and boosting its share repurchases. It is also investing in its new partnership with cosmetics chain Sephora and updating over half of its more than 1,000 stores.
Macellum, with a focus on retail, nominated nine directors early last year along with three other activists—including Macellum Chief Executive Jonathan Duskin —and urged Kohl’s to monetize its real estate and make changes in its operations. Kohl’s has said it previously concluded that such sale-leasebacks for its real estate wouldn’t add value.
The group later reached a settlement agreement as Kohl’s stock was rebounding that put two of its nominees and a third director on the board. The agreement barred Macellum and the other firms from agitating at the company until last week.
The window to nominate directors to Kohl’s board opened Jan. 12 and closes in mid-February.