Ryan Cohen, the billionaire founder of Chewy.com who has gone on to make splashy investments in GameStop and Bed Bath & Beyond, has bet big on turnarounds at fixer-upper companies. He’s still waiting on one at Bed Bath & Beyond.
The home goods retailer’s stock price took another nosedive on Wednesday, after reporting a 25% drop in quarterly sales, widening losses and announcing the departure of its CEO. Shares have fallen 66% this year, versus 20% for the S&P 500 and 29% for the Nasdaq.
The stock slide has delivered a blow to Cohen, 36, who owns almost 10% of the company and is one of its five largest shareholders. His stake is now worth $100 million less than when he announced the position four months ago, falling from about $150 million in value to $50 million. It makes up a small part of his fortune, which Forbes estimates at $2.2 billion. About half of his fortune stems from his stake in GameStop, which is down nearly 20% year-to-date but still up significantly from where Cohen bought in.
Bed Bath & Beyond is the latest target in Cohen’s newfound career as an activist investor. In an open letter to the retailer earlier this year, he criticized it for paying executives too much while its sales declined, market share fell and stock price lagged. He said its “scattershot strategy is not ending the tailspin” the company has been in since before the pandemic.
He took particular aim at CEO Mark Tritton’s compensation. Tritton earned $36 million over the last three years, including a performance-based bonus and stock awards, even as sales declined by the double digits. That is more than CEOs of much larger retailers, argued Cohen. Tritton, who was the chief merchandising officer at Target before joining Bed Bath & Beyond in late 2019 will receive millions more in severance.
He also pushed the company to improve performance by focusing its strategy and explore a sale of its Buybuy Baby chain. In March, Bed Bath & Beyond agreed to add three new directors to the board.
Tritton had attempted to pull off a massive turnaround, which included efforts to reduce the overwhelming number of items crammed into stores and introduce more higher-margin, private-label brands. It remodeled hundreds of stores and scaled back on promotions – although it never quite rid itself of those iconic 20% off coupons. But its turnaround plan collided with a breakdown in the global supply chain, prompting a cascade of delays and out-of-stocks that in turn frustrated customers and lowered sales.
“It appears that trying to execute on dozens of initiatives at once is leading to dozens of mediocre outcomes,” wrote Cohen in his March letter.
In its latest quarter, revenue fell 25% to $1.4 billion. Net losses widened to $358 million, compared to a loss of $51 million in the same period a year ago.