Christopher & Banks Keeps CEO as Turnaround Moves Ahead

Christopher & BanksPlymouth, MN—As its turnaround efforts appear to be moving faster than expected, Christopher & Banks reported to the Securities & Exchange Commission on Tuesday that interim CEO Joel Waller is staying on through March 2012.

Waller, former CEO at Wilsons The Leather Experts, was brought in to Christopher & Banks last December as president for a one-year term. Two months later, CEO Larry Barenbaum left and Waller became CEO while the board continued its search.

In the meantime, the search continued, but Christopher & Banks starting seeing a turnaround in its declining comparable store sales. In July, Aria Partners, a Boston-based hedge fund, made a $64.2 million bid, its second, to buy the retailer, but was rebuffed by the board who adopted a poison pill to thwart a takeover.

Indeed, the retailer’s sales have improved. In its second quarter earnings report in August, Christopher & Banks Wednesday reported a narrower loss due mainly to lower expenses.

Net loss lowered to $2.2 million or 6 cents a share from $6.2 million or 18 cents a share in the same period last year.

Total sales were $103.4 million, down from $105.6 million last year. Comparable store sales, however, increased 5.5%. Costs and expenses decreased to $105.6 million from $111.9 million last year.

Moreover, the board said it expects positive comp sales in its third and fourth quarter. And last month, analyst Piper Jaffray reported Christopher & Banks is in the position for a turnaround that could be faster than expected.

Waller, 72, received a $150,000 bonus for the extension of his tenure as chief executive on top of his base salary of $500,000. Upon his one year anniversary on Dec. 14, the board could give him a raise, according to the SEC filing.

In making its second bid for the company in July, Aria Partners had said it wanted Waller to stay as chief executive.

 

 

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