Jan 18 (Reuters) - Kohl's Corp has been approached
by a potential buyer, sources said on Tuesday, as the department
store came under fresh pressure from an activist hedge fund to
explore strategic options if it does not find a way to boost its
Acacia Research, which is backed by activist investment firm
Starboard Value, has held talks nL1N2TY16E with Kohl's in the
last few days to lay the groundwork for a bid, Reuters reported
earlier, citing two people familiar with the discussions.
Representatives for Acacia and Starboard did not respond to
requests for comment and it is not guaranteed that a bid or
potential takeover will follow.
Macellum Advisors nL1N2SR2QD said on Tuesday that Kohl's
should explore strategic options, including a sale, adding it
planned to nominate directors to the retailer's board,
confirming a Reuters report from December.
Kohl's share price jumped as much as 6% on a day the market
was broadly trading lower. Kohl's said it does not comment on
"rumors and speculation."
In a separate statement it said its "strategy is producing
results" and that management and the board "refuse to be
distracted" from delivering stronger results for all investors.
The approach from Acacia and push by Macellum create fresh
upheaval for a company that only last year reached a deal with a
group of activists, including Macellum, to refresh its board,
and then faced calls from another activist, Engine Capital, to
Since then changes including brand partnerships with beauty
products chain Sephora have led to stronger sales, the company
said. It added that "based on our performance in 2021, we are
positioned to exceed our key 2023 financial goals two years
ahead of plan."
But Macellum, which owns nearly 5% of Kohl's stock, hasn't
been satisfied by progress achieved since last year when it
along with two other firms nominated nine directors, including
Macellum's chief executive officer, Jonathan Duskin.
Calling 2021 "another lost year at Kohl's," Macellum
criticized the stock price's 22% drop from April when it reached
the settlement through this week. In 2021, Kohl's agreed to add
three new directors to its board, including two nominated by
Macellum and the others.
Kohl's can optimize its balance sheet by monetizing $4
billion of its real estate and returning the proceeds to
shareholders through a buyback, which could boost its stock to
$100 apiece, Macellum said.
If Kohl's can't pursue improvements it should consider a
sale, the hedge fund said, adding "there are well-capitalized
strategic and financial buyers that could pay a meaningful
premium to acquire Kohl's." It did not name those firms.
Starboard and Acacia would likely work with Oak Street Real
Estate Capital LLC to try and sell off Kohl's real estate
holdings to raise additional capital for a transaction, the
sources familiar with the discussions said.
Kohl's real estate holdings are estimated to be worth
between $7 billion and $8 billion.
(Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss in Boston and Praveen
Paramasivam in Bengaluru; Editing by Ramakrishnan M. and Emelia