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Genesco ‘Highly Energized’ After Proxy Fight Peters Out

After months of mud-slinging, an attempt to seize control of Genesco’s board ended in failure Tuesday.

The owner of Journeys, Schuh, Johnston & Murphy and other footwear retailers announced that its shareholders voted to return all nine directors to its board during Tuesday’s annual meeting.

The election reinstalls Matthew Diamond, Mimi Vaughn, Joanna Barsh, John Lambros, Thurgood Marshall, Jr., Angel Martinez, Kevin McDermott, Mary Meixelsperger, and Gregory Sandfort to their roles steering the shoe company.

Diamond, the board’s lead independent director, said the “preliminary results reflect the support we have received from shareholders in response to the decisive actions Genesco has taken to grow and strengthen our business and bring on leaders who can effectively oversee and execute on our strategy.”

“We have had the opportunity to speak with many of our shareholders about Genesco’s performance, strategy, and our positive outlook for the future, as well as hear their ideas and views” about the company, he added. “We appreciate all of their input and look forward to continuing that dialogue.”

The reelection, which an Independent Inspector of Elections is yet to certify, comes after Legion Partners issued its final salvo on Friday, urging Genesco shareholders to vote in its four nominees: Marjorie L. Bowen, Margenett Moore-Roberts, Dawn H. Robertson and Hobart P. Sichel. Seeking to replace nearly half of the Nashville company’s board, the hedge fund claimed that its “slate is focused on the next four years as much as the next four quarters.”

“We suspect that Genesco’s long-term shareholders, who have endured many years of relative underperformance and stagnation, recognize that structural changes are needed at Genesco,” Legion added in its missive last week. “Those are exactly the type of changes we believe our nominees can facilitate in the boardroom.”

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Those pleas seemingly went ignored. After the shareholder vote, Genesco CEO Mimi Vaughn, who also serves as president and board chair, thanked employees for their “relentless focus throughout this process.”

“We are highly energized to continue to execute on our footwear focused strategy, build on our progress and momentum coming out of the pandemic, and realize the significant synergies across our businesses to drive growth and profitability,” Vaughn said.

She also acknowledged Kathleen Mason and Marty Dickens, who retired from the board.

 Genesco reported 93 percent sales growth in the first quarter. “The pace of our recovery only reinforces our belief that the path we were on prior to the pandemic now is the right path forward,” Vaughn said at the time. “What we’re most excited about is we see opportunities to solidify the digital gains we made and capitalize on the ongoing industry consolidation to further expand our market share. Covid-19 has provided us the real opportunity to transform our business at a faster pace, and our results demonstrate that’s what we’re accomplishing.”