Shareholder Wants Christopher & Banks CEO to Remain

Christopher & BanksPlymouth, MN—Once again a war of words of sorts has erupted between specialty retailer Christopher & Banks and Aria Partners, the hedge fund with the 4% stake in the retailer, whose takeover bid was rejected earlier this month.

On Friday, Aria Partners again took to task the company’s board of directors who have not only rejected its $64 million takeover bid but also instituted a poison pill to prevent a hostile takeover.

Aria sent a letter blasting the retailer’s policies saying it was deteriorating fast. In response the board released preliminary second quarter figures that showed Christopher & Banks’ comparable store sales may be up as much as 5.5%.

Aria attributes that performance to Joel Waller, former chief executive at Wilsons The Leather Experts, who became interim CEO in February.

“As we have said many times, we think Joel is a talented executive who will do a good job managing this business,” Aria Partners said Friday in a statement. “So good, that we’d like to own the entire company.”

Aria further criticized the board for continuing to seek a new chief executive even after reporting improving numbers last week. While Peter Michielutti, chief financial officer, declined comment on Friday about Aria’s letter, the company last week had said it retained an executive recruiter to help its find a long-term CEO.

Joel Waller, 72, has been credited with creating “framework of the company’s merchandise, marketing and operational strategy,” but he doesn’t have a seat on the board.

Waller previously led teen retailer Wet Seal Inc. from 2005 to 2008. Prior to that, he was chief executive at Wilsons Leather for about 20 years.

 

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