Nordstrom stock surges after activist investor Ryan Cohen buys stake

Shoppers exit Nordstrom at the King of Prussia Mall on December 11, 2022 in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.

Mark Makela | Getty Images

Shares of Nordstrom surged Friday morning following news that activist investor and meme stock maven Ryan Cohen bought a stake in the high-end department store company.

The stock was up about 30% in premarket trading.

The Wall Street Journal, citing people familiar with the matter, reported Thursday evening that Cohen was in the process of acquiring a “sizable stake” in Nordstrom while looking to shake up its board. The Journal said Cohen is now one of Nordstrom’s top five nonfamily shareholders.

Nordstrom, for its part, said it was open to hearing Cohen out.

“While Mr. Cohen hasn’t sought any discussions with us in several years, we are open to hearing his views, as we do with all Nordstrom shareholders,” the company said in a statement. “We will continue to take actions that we believe are in the best interests of the company and our shareholders.”

The news about Cohen comes weeks after Nordstrom, which has had to dramatically mark down prices to ease an inventory glut, reported lackluster holiday sales and slashed its guidance for the year. The company is set to report earnings March 2.

Cohen, who founded pet retail and health site Chewy, is considered a champion of the meme stock crowd. He is the chairman of Reddit favorite GameStop. He also triggered a brief rally in Bed Bath & Beyond last year before he ultimately dumped out of the stock. Bed Bath is expected to file for bankruptcy protection any day now.

Cohen appears to be taking aim once again at Mark Tritton, the former Target executive who was forced out as Bed Bath CEO last year as Cohen’s firm pressured the struggling home goods retailer. Tritton has been on Nordstrom’s board for nearly three years, after having previously worked for the company from 2009 to 2016.

According to the Journal, Cohen thinks Tritton, because of his prior experience working at the company shouldn’t be deciding on compensation for Nordstrom family members who are also executives at the retailer. Erik Nordstrom is the company’s CEO, while Peter Nordstrom serves as its president.

–CNBC’s Kerry Caufield contributed to this report.

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