Meme investor Ryan Cohen sparks surge in Nordstrom share


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Nordstrom’s shares soared more than 25% Friday after reports that activist investor Ryan Cohen has taken a huge stake in the struggling department store company.

The billionaire investor — who made his fortune on and is known for igniting meme stock frenzies in GameStop and Bed Bath & Beyond — is believed to be one of the top five nonfamily shareholders in Nordstom’s, sources told the Wall Street Journal on Thursday.

Cohen has amassed the large stake in an effort to boot Nordstrom’s board member Mark Tritton for his role in deciding the compensation for the Nordstrom family members who run the upscale department store chain, according to the report.

Cohen had also gone after Tritton when he was CEO of Bed Bath & Beyond, which may soon file for bankruptcy. Cohen had a big stake in the retailer and criticized the home-goods retailer for not aligning leadership compensation with performance.

Tritton was ousted last June and Cohen cashed out his position two months later — before the stock tanked — to net a $60 million profit.

Tritton worked for Nordstrom from 2009 to 2016 before joining Target as chief of merchandising. He became CEO of Bed Bath & Beyond in 2019 and has served as a director at Nordstrom since April 2020.

Billionaire investor, Ryan Cohen, is buying up shares in Nordstrom to advocate for changes to its board of directors.

He sees Tritton as “unqualified and conflicted,” a source told the Journal.

Shares of Nordstrom were up $4.82, to $25.96, in intraday trading Friday

Cohen’s stake in Nordstrom is not disclosed in SEC filings, indicating that he holds less than 5%.

He reportedly has two director candidates for Nordstrom and is hoping to strike a deal with the board before Feb. 17 when the nomination period closes, according to the Journal.

“While Mr. Cohen hasn’t sought any discussions with us in several years, we are open to hearing his views,” a Nordstrom spokesperson said in a statement according to the report.

Last year, Nordstrom adopted a poison pill after Mexican department store company El Puerto de Liverpool SAB acquired a nearly 10% stake in the company. 

A Nordstrom entrance
Nordstrom reported that its holiday sales declined in 2022 compared to 2019.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

The disclosure of Cohen’s investment and thinking on Nordstrom comes on the heels of a disappointing holiday season for the Seattle-based retailer.

Its holiday sales throught Dec. 31 fell 3.5% compared to a year ago, the company said.

“The holiday season was highly promotional and sales were softer than pre-pandemic levels,” CEO Erik Nordstrom had said.

The company also said revenue growth for last year would be on the low end of its previous guidance of 5% to 7% growth.

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