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Oct 20, 2017

HBC CEO Jerry Storch to leave company November 1

Jerry Storch

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Hudson's Bay Co. (HBC.TO) says chief executive Jerry Storch is leaving the company and returning to his own consulting firm as of Nov. 1.

Storch is a former CEO of Toys "R" Us who joined the Toronto-based retail company in January 2015, succeeding Richard Baker as HBC's chief executive.

Baker, who is currently the company’s executive chairman, will reassume the CEO role on an interim basis, while HBC searches for a permanent replacement for Storch.

Storch’s departure took some industry analysts by surprise.

“What I don’t like is when leaders of big retailers are leaving before the Christmas season because I think it sort of makes everybody asks questions and sort of throws management teams into disarray,” said Mark Satov, a strategy advisor at Satov Consultants in an interview on BNN. 

“So, you have to wonder, was it actually planned and this was when they decided to announce it, or was it something that was unplanned, so a disagreement of sorts, I don’t know,” he said.

The announcement comes as the retailer finds itself under increasing pressure from activist investor Johnathan Litt, who runs the Land and Buildings hedge fund. The fund focusses on real estate and has been calling on HBC to tap into some of its real estate holdings.

The fund disclosed a 4.3 per cent stake in Hudson’s Bay in June.

Brian Madden, a portfolio manager with Goodreid Investment Counsel, says Baker’s background in real estate is worth noting.

Madden said there is a possibility HBC might sell the land beneath its stores and convert them into a REIT.

“The fact that this does seem to come right out of left field, the fact that it’s a sudden departure, that nobody new has been named as a permanent replacement, where there’s smoke there’s often fire and so I think this increases the possibility of that scenario playing out,” he said.

With files from The Canadian Press.