A plan by the Nordstrom family to regain control of its namesake company seems to have been shelved, according to a securities document filed Monday.
For the past several months, Nordstrom co-presidents Erik and Peter Nordstrom have been in talks with the Seattle retailer’s independent board members over a proposal that would have boosted the Nordstrom family’s stake in the retailer from the current 31% to “slightly in excess” of 50%, according to Monday’s filings.
Such a change would have given the Nordstrom family more control over a company that has come under fire over the last year for declining sales and a plummeting share price.
But those talks were “terminated by the mutual agreement of the co-Presidents and the independent directors,” according to a document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The news, which comes less than a week after the retailer opened its long-awaited women’s store in Manhattan, appears to resolve some of the reported friction between the retailer’s nonfamily board members and Erik and Peter Nordstrom, who have run the company since the death of their elder brother Blake in January.
Tensions reportedly emerged after the retailer posted several disappointing quarters and saw its share price slump by more than 60%, to just over $25, from November 2018 to August of this year.
According to several news accounts, some nonfamily board members wanted to bring in an outside executive to run the company, a move supported by some analysts. Nordstrom “is in need of an outsider to lead a turnaround,” wrote Camilla Yanushevsky, a retail analyst with CFRA, in a research note in July. “The family, we believe, is partly responsible for the retailer’s deteriorating margins and waning comparable-store sales.”
The Nordstrom brothers had reportedly pushed back with a plan to buy a majority stake in the company, or even take it private, which would have insulated them from pressure by investors and analysts.
But that plan drew widespread skepticism, not least due to the massive costs of purchasing a majority stake in the company’s shares.
“Deep down the Nordstrom family would like to control Nordstrom completely and remove it from the pressures and stresses of the market,” said Neil Saunders, managing director at retail analyst GlobalData. “However, bringing about such an aspiration is financially challenging and it would also be enormously distracting from the day-to-day operation of the business — which is likely why they abandoned the idea.”
Indeed, two recent personnel changes at Nordstrom suggest that the company is moving in the opposite direction, Saunders said.
Since August, Nordstrom has given significant management authority to two nonfamily executives: Teri Bariquit, who was promoted to chief merchandising officer, and Ken Worzel who became chief operating officer, a new position meant to better coordinate the retailer’s online and physical operations.
Both moves suggest the retailer is looking for “more outside influence and less control from the Nordstrom family,” Saunders said. “That’s likely a good thing in terms of bringing in new thinking and fresh ideas.”
The market seems to agree. Since bottoming out in August, Nordstrom shares have bounced back by 50%, to $38.04.