Hours after hedge fund Ancora Holdings publicly called for the department store to find replacements for CEO Michelle Gass and Board Chairman Peter Boneparth, Kohl’s said its board “unanimously supports Michelle Gass and her leadership team.” Ancora, which last year was part of a successful push to shake up the retailer’s board, holds a 2.5% stake in Kohl’s.
“We remain committed to maximizing value and acting in the interests of all our shareholders by staying focused on running the business, and the Board continues to actively engage with management to navigate the current retail environment,” according to an emailed statement from Kohl’s.
Ancora is advocating for Thomas Kingsbury, who joined Kohl’s board last year as part of the activist-led overhaul, to take over as either CEO or chair, Axios reported Thursday. Ancora didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. As a member of the board, Kingsbury himself on Thursday would have endorsed retaining Gass as chief executive.
Pressure on Kohl’s management team has only intensified since they walked away from a takeover bid from Vitamin Shoppe owner Franchise Group in July. Some analysts including those at Credit Suisse said the company moved so slowly that deteriorating macroeconomics allowed Franchise to cut its offer from $60 per share to $53.
Whatever happens next, the department store must somehow stem what UBS analysts predict will be ongoing share losses. From 2011 to 2021, the retailer has lost over a quarter of its market share, mostly to off-price retailers, Amazon and brands, according to UBS researchers.