Kohl’s CEO Michelle Gass Is Stepping Down – Footwear News

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Kohl’s said today that Michelle Gass will step down from her role as CEO and member of the board of directors, effective December 2. She will be pursing another opportunity.

Tom Kingsbury will serve as interim CEO until a successor is named. The board has formed a committee to search for a replacement.

The departure comes at a turbulent time for the the Menomonee Falls, Wis.-based retailer, which has faced increasing pressure from activist investors in recent months to turn its business around and instate new leadership. In September, Ancora Holdings, which owns 2.5% of shares at Kohl’s, asked the board of directors to oust Gass and chairman Peter Boneparth. The investor emphasized the need for leaders with more experience in turning around a business at “this critical fork in the road” for the company.

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At the time, Kohl’s said that the board “unanimously supports Michelle Gass and her leadership team.”

Kohl’s has also faced pressure from Macellum Advisors, which owns nearly 5% of shares at Kohl’s. The group in January sent an open letter to other shareholders to call out Kohl’s for “mismanaging” the business and “failing to implement necessary operational, financial and strategic improvements.” A week later, the activist investor advised the company to strongly consider a sale of the company and also asked for Kohl’s to put a Macellum representative on the board.

In September, Kohl’s was named in a new class action lawsuit that accused the retailer of misleading shareholders about the “company’s business, operations and compliance policies,” including failing to disclose that the company’s strategic plan was not engineered in a way to help the company achieve its goals.

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The company also failed to complete a negotiation to sell itself a few months ago. After entering into exclusive negotiations in early June with Franchise Group to discuss a potential sale of its business, Kohl’s said on July 1 that it withdrew from the process. Other reports in September revealed that Kohl’s was in talks with private equity firm Oak Street Real Estate Capital LLC to discuss potentially selling its real estate assets for around $2 billion.

Gass served as CEO of Kohl’s since 2018. She joined the company in 2013.

“I am incredibly proud of what the team at Kohl’s has accomplished and I’m very confident in their ability to drive continued innovation, growth and value for customers,” Gass said in a statement. “Kohl’s associates and brand partners are an inspiration to me, and I am truly grateful to have had the opportunity to work with this great team and company.”

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In August, Kohl’s Corp. cut its outlook for the year after reporting a hit to its business in Q2 from macroeconomic headwinds. Gass said inflation and weaker consumer spending, especially among middle-income customers, impacted the company’s results in the quarter.

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