Starboard slashes stake in Kohl’s after seeking to buy it in January

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FILE PHOTO: A Kohl’s department store in New York

By Svea Herbst-Bayliss

BOSTON – Activist hedge fund Starboard Value, which had offered to buy Kohl’s Corp for roughly $9 billion early this year, slashed its stake in the department store by more than 80% in the second quarter, according to a regulatory filing on Friday evening.

Starboard sold 2.8 million shares during the quarter, leaving it with 535,029 shares on June 30.

Starboard first invested in Kohl’s during the first quarter of 2022 and the firm owned 2.59% of the company’s stock, making it a top 10 holder. Investment managers are beginning to release their quarterly holdings before Monday’s so-called 13-F filing deadline which details what they owned in U.S.-based companies on June 30.

In early January, before takeover talk for Kohl’s heated up, the stock traded around $50 a share. On Friday, Kohl’s shares closed at $33.18.

On July 1, Kohl’s said it had called off its sale to Franchise Group, sending the company’s shares tumbling.

Starboard-backed Acacia Research Corp in January offered to buy Kohl’s for $64 a share and told the company it had assurances of obtaining financing for the deal. Kohl’s rejected Starboard’s overtures.

Months later the company agreed to negotiate exclusively with Franchise Group Inc, which owns Vitamin Shoppe and Buddy’s Home Furnishings. In late June, Franchise Group cut its offer for Kohl’s to $53 and by the end of the month the company called off the planned deal, citing market volatility which had made financing conditions difficult.

Kohl’s defeated hedge fund Macellum Advisors’ proxy contest to win board seats in part with arguments that the current board should oversee the sales process which was ongoing.

(Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss in Boston; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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