Activist Barington Capital Group is pushing Leslie Wexner’s L Brands Inc. to follow the lead of Gap Inc. and split its business up, freeing the strong Bath & Body Works chain from the struggling Victoria’s Secret in order to produce better returns for investors.
James Mitarotonda, chairman and chief executive officer of Barington, which in the past has pushed for changes at Dillard’s Inc., Avon Products Inc. and elsewhere, sent a letter to Wexner lauding the skills of L Brands’ chairman and ceo, but maintaining that it was time for a change.
“Unfortunately, the performance of L Brands has been disappointing over the past few years,” Mitarotonda said. “The company’s common stock has underperformed its self-selected peer group and the market as a whole by a substantial margin over the last one-, three- and five-year periods, plummeting from a high of $100.22 per share on Nov. 4, 2015, to $26.81 per share at the close of the market yesterday, a decrease of more than 73 percent.”
Mitarotonda pushed for the company to take “swift action to improve the performance of Victoria’s Secret by correcting past merchandising mistakes” and also said it should “retain a financial adviser to help explore opportunities to unlock the tremendous value of Bath & Body Works, such as through a spinoff of Victoria’s Secret or an initial public offering of Bath & Body Works.”
He also recommended that L Brands switch up its board of directors as “its current directors lack the independence and diversity needed to effectively oversee and advise management.”
Investors reacted favorably to the arrival of the activist and pushed shares of L Brands up 5 percent to $28.15 in pre-market trading Tuesday.