AM I NEXT? NO LOVE -- LAYOFFS AT LEGG MASON

Am I Next? Activist Nelson Peltz drives layoffs at Legg Mason.

Baltimore, Maryland-based Legg Mason, a global asset management and financial advisory firm has announced the layoff of 120 employees in Baltimore, Maryland, New York City, New York, and Stamford, Connecticut as part of a cost containment effort. The layoffs include positions in legal, finance, human resources. product support and fund administration distribution operations. Four senior executives will also depart.

CEO Joseph Sullivan noted, “the reductions reflect a need in an evolving industry to “rethink how we deliver on our mission of investing. Going forward, we will continue to challenge ourselves to be more efficient and effective, through innovation. We will continue to collaborate in new and different ways, and we will continue to allocate resources to those areas that will enable us to differentiate ourselves in the eyes of our clients. Throughout our history, Legg Mason has adapted to confront tough challenges. As part of our strategic restructuring, the steps we take today will position the company to succeed over the long-term--for our clients, our shareholders, our employees and our communities.” YADA, YADA, YADA.

Not so coincidentally, we see the notorious activist investor activist investor Nelson Peltz, the CEO of Trian Fund Management, and Trian’s Chief Investment Officer joining the Board of Directors. Peltz, a legendary corporate raider, is renown for his demands for restructuring of managements, divestiture of under-performing assets, strict cost controls including significant reductions in force, stock buybacks, strategic acquisitions, and increased dividends to investors.

Change is coming. There will always be a tomorrow, no matter how much you may try to ignore it. There are no guarantees in life, or promises for a bright future. Just because something bad hasn't happened yet, doesn't mean it won't. It can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere ... No one is guaranteed to wake up tomorrow and still have a job by evening. Are you now wondering, Am I Next?

AM I NEXT? IS THE HANDWRITING ON THE WALL AT BED BATH & BEYOND?

Am I Next? Activist Investors and Management Changes at Bed Bath & Beyond

Union, New Jersey-based Bed Bath & Beyond Inc, a discounter of household retail merchandise, has announced that their CEO, Steven Temares, has resigned after three activist investors (Legion Partners Asset Management LLC, Macellum Advisors GP LLC and Ancora Advisors LLC) excoriated the company’s leadership, business model, and operations. The activists are demanding that the retailer adopt changes to its business model to cope with the increasing sales pressure of e-commerce as well as reduce costs.

From a transition statement…

“Patrick Gaston, Independent Chairman of the Bed Bath & Beyond Board, stated, ‘Bed Bath & Beyond has a significant opportunity to drive value creation by building on its great brands and strong customer affinity. As the Company continues its efforts to improve its financial performance and enhance its competitive position, the Board determined that now is the right time to identify the next generation of leadership. We are fortunate to have someone of Mary's caliber to serve as Interim CEO while the Board conducts a search for a permanent successor, and are confident in her ability to lead the Company forward during this transition period.’"

“Ms. Winston said, "This is an important time for Bed Bath & Beyond and we are committed to being the leading omnichannel retailer of choice for the home and heart-felt life events. Together with the Board, including the members of the Business Transformation and Strategy Review Committee, the leadership team and our more than 60,000 associates, I look forward to building an even stronger future for Bed Bath & Beyond. As we continue to review our business initiatives, we will be focused on driving continued margin improvement, enhancing the in-store and online experience, and accelerating our transformation to the benefit of our shareholders, customers and other stakeholders."

About Mary Winston …

“Ms. Winston is a seasoned executive with significant governance expertise across a broad range of industries, having served on large public company boards and audit committees for many years. She has a strong background in all aspects of finance and accounting, as well as experience in M&A, corporate strategy, cost restructuring programs, corporate governance/compliance, and investor relations/communications. Among other roles, she has served as Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at Family Dollar Stores Inc., Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at Giant Eagle, Inc., Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at Scholastic Corporation, Vice President and Controller of Visteon Corporation and Vice President, Global Financial Operations at Pfizer Inc. in the Pharmaceuticals Group. She started her career as a CPA and auditor at Arthur Andersen & Co. Ms. Winston is a National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD) Board Governance Fellow. She currently serves as President at WinsCo Enterprises Inc., a financial and board governance consulting firm.”

As you can see Winston is all about finance and cost-cutting, leaving the real estate and merchandising decisions to others. Since she is not giving up her own company to join Bed Bath & Beyond, she is most likely the hired gun to execute major changes before a permanent CEO is named.

Activist investors, new board members, and a change in senior leadership almost always foretells a reduction in force to curtail costs and to signal to Wall Street that changes are afoot. Time for employees to be vigilant.

Change is coming. There will always be a tomorrow, no matter how much you may try to ignore it. There are no guarantees in life, or promises for a bright future. Just because something bad hasn't happened yet, doesn't mean it won't. It can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere ... are you now wondering, Am I Next?

AM I NEXT? NO LOVE AT CAMPBELL'S FOODS

Am I Next? Major changes coming to Campbell's Foods.

It appears that asset sales, cost-cutting, and restructuring is on the menu at the iconic Camden, New Jersey-based Campbell’s if New York City, New York-based hedge fund Third Point wins a proxy fight to replace the entire board of directors. Third Point’s activism is well-known and it appears that Third Point has also taken a major position in Nestlé which it believes is poorly managed and in need of drastic restructuring. 

According to published reports, Third Point’s original intent was to arrange the sale of the entire company to maximize shareholder return on investment. 

In response to activist pressures, Campbell’s has undertaken a “strategic review,” and has suggested that its desire is “to optimize its current portfolio, divest certain businesses and pay down debt, while also working to reduce costs.” 

Campbell’s interim President and CEO Keith McLoughlin said, “Campbell’s Board of Directors considered a full slate of strategic options, including optimizing the portfolio, divesting businesses, splitting the company, and pursuing a sale. The Board concluded that, at this time, the best path forward to drive shareholder value is to focus the company on two core businesses in the North American market with a proven consumer packaged goods business model. Importantly, the Board remains open and committed to evaluating all strategic options to enhance value in the future. The entire statement can be found here.

Standard corporate-speak for trying anything to boost share prices and leave the existing board and management intact. 

There is little or no doubt that change is arriving at Campbell’s and that employees should take note.

Do you wonder, Am I Next?