Steven T. Mnuchin has resigned from the boards of Sears Holdings Corp. and CIT Group Inc.
Mnuchin, 53, is President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for Treasury Secretary. According to Sears on Friday, Mnuchin decided to step down from the company’s board, effective immediately. His departure reduces the number of directors on the board to nine.
Mnuchin joined the Sears board in March 2005, when Kmart Holding Corp. merged with Sears, Roebuck & Co., after which the combined entity was renamed Sears Holdings Corp. Before that, he had been named to Kmart’s board in May 2003.
Edward S. Lampert, chairman and chief executive officer of Sears, said, “I want to thank Steven for his leadership, guidance and counsel during his more than 13 years of service as a highly valued member of the boards of both Sears Holdings and the former Kmart Holding Corp.” Lampert added his congratulations as Mnuchin “embarks on this important post in President-elect Trump’s administration.”
Mnuchin said, “It’s been a pleasure to work closely with Eddie and the other members of Sears Holdings’ board of directors over the years, and I wish the company and its associates all the best as Sears Holdings continues on its transformation.”
Mnuchin and Lampert were college roommates at Yale University. The Treasury pick was also at one point chief information officer at Goldman, Sachs & Co., where he started out as a mortgage bond trader.
Lampert meanwhile has embarked on a multiyear transformation of the brick-and-mortar retailer into a Shop Your Way member-focused digital platform. The jury is still out on whether it will be a successful turnaround. So far, Lampert still has the support of Sears’ board. In the most recent second-quarter earnings report for the period ended July 30, Sears lost $395 million, or $3.70 a diluted share, against net income of $208 million, or $1.82 a year ago, on revenues that fell 8.8 percent to $5.66 billion mostly due to fewer stores. One concern has been the cash-burn rate.
When Mnuchin wasn’t taking care of board responsibilities at Sears, he served as Trump’s campaign finance manager and most recently a Hollywood financier through his firm Dune Capital Management. Among some of Dune’s film investments were “The Devil Wears Prada,” the “X-Men” franchise and “Avatar.” He also was the former co-chairman of Relativity Media, but left weeks before the company filed for bankruptcy court protection.
In between his stints at Goldman and at Dune Capital, Mnuchin was chairman and ceo of One West Bank Group — the renamed failed California mortgage lender better known as IndyMac — and had served as vice chairman of CIT Group Inc. until March. One West was acquired by CIT last year for $3.4 billion and is now a division of CIT Bank N.A. He also was ceo of SFM Capital Management, which has affiliations to hedge funder George Soros. It was also Soros in 2004 who helped back the start of Mnuchin’s Dune Capital.
CIT said on Friday that he resigned from its board. CIT provides financial services, including factoring, to many middle-market firms in the fashion industry.
Most recently a Hollywood financier, Mnuchin was a Goldman Sachs trader who became a hedge fund manager before turning his sights to Hollywood. He is set to join Wilbur L. Ross Jr., a billionaire investor with a specialty in distressed assets chosen to be Commerce Secretary, and Todd Ricketts, the owner of the Chicago Cubs and the pick for the role of Deputy Commerce Secretary, who together will help shape American economic policy under the Trump administration.
Presuming Mnuchin and Ross are appointed and receive confirmation from the Senate, the two will be part of Trump’s cabinet. The Secretary of Treasury, as part of the president’s inner circle of advisers, is also fifth in line for the presidency.
There’s also precedence for hiring a Wall Street insider — as well as their ties to Goldman — to the post of Treasury Secretary. Mnuchin’s former boss Henry Paulson Jr., who was chairman and ceo of Goldman, held the same Treasury post under President George W. Bush, and found himself steering the Treasury through the beginning of the so-called “Great Recession” in 2008 and 2009. And then there’s Robert Rubin, former Goldman board member and co-chairman, who served as Treasury Secretary during the Clinton administration.