Why Macy’s Couldn’t Sell Its Stores Fast Enough

by MR Magazine Staff

Activist hedge fund Starboard Value once had a plan for struggling department store chain Macy’s. In January 2016, Starboard founder and CEO Jeff Smith and his team outlined in a presentation their vision for how the company could unlock what they said was $21 billion in assets — namely, Macy’s real estate holdings — by spinning them off from the retail business. The department store retailer didn’t bite, and the hedge fund couldn’t rally enough shareholders to try to force the issue. This May, a frustrated Starboard finally surrendered, writing in a securities filing that it had sold its entire stake in Macy’s — almost 1% of the company. The episode is emblematic of the different mentalities of retailers and the financial gurus that own their stock. While Starboard wanted to pump cash out of Macy’s, the retailer wanted maximum control over its financial and geographic destiny. Macy’s — just a decade after adding 1,000 new stores in an aggressive expansion — maintains that it is determined to reap what cash it can from its real estate. But in taking a slower, more careful approach, the company might have missed an opportunity to get the most value for its real estate. Now, as the retailer sheds many dozens of unproductive stores, it could have trouble finding buyers for the properties it actually wants to sell. The reason for that is simple, well-known and even more troublesome for Macy’s: Department stores and the malls that house them are in a steady decline. Read more at Retail Dive.