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Could Ryan Cohen-Approved Board Member Who Resigned From Bed Bath & Beyond Head to Nordstrom Next?

Less than a year after she joined the board of directors for troubled home goods retailer Bed Bath & Beyond, Marjorie Bowen resigned from the position this week. According to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Feb. 11, Bowen voluntarily resigned, and her “resignation was not related to any disagreement with the Company on any matter relating to the registrant’s operations, policies or practices.”

Bowen joined the board in March 2022 along with two other directors—Shelly C. Lombard and Ben Rosenzweig—after being appointed by activist investor Ryan Cohen of RC Ventures. Cohen, who founded online pet product retailer Chewy, has since gained notoriety for making millions trading meme stocks and taking on activist investor roles at companies such as Bed Bath & Beyond and Gamestop.

Cohen made nearly $60 million selling his shares of Bed Bath & Beyond last year, adding to the retailer’s troubles and drawing the attention of a class-action lawsuit that accused Cohen and former CFO Gustavo Arnal of participating in a pump-and-dump securities fraud scheme. Arnal took his own life in September shortly after being named in the suit.

Though Cohen left the Bed Bath & Beyond board when he sold off his share of the company in August 2022, Bowen stayed on. Cohen has since moved on to fashion retailer Nordstrom, amassing a stake in the company earlier this month after it was forced to cut its quarterly outlook due to slow holiday sales.

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Interestingly, former Bed Bath & Beyond CEO Mark Tritton—whose firing Cohen pushed last summer—currently serves on Nordstrom’s board. Some have speculated that Cohen would push for his removal, perhaps filling his space on the board with Bowen, who has a long history of serving on corporate boards, many of which operated in the apparel industry. In addition to Bed Bath & Beyond, Bowen has served on the boards of Centric Brands (parent company of an array of brands, such as Buffalo Jeans, Zac Posen and Hervé Léger), Genesco (which counts footwear retailer Journeys and apparel brand Johnston & Murphy among its holdings), Sequential Brands Group (parent of William Rast, Ellen Tracy and Avia, among other brands) and Talbots.

But Cohen may not have the same power in this situation that he wielded with Bed Bath & Beyond. In September 2022, Nordstrom’s board approved a plan called the “Shareholder Rights Plan” and also known as a “poison pill” to prevent takeovers by investors buying stock. The policy prevents any one shareholder from purchasing more than 10 percent of the company without board approval. The move came after Mexican retailer Liverpool acquired a 9.9 percent stake in Nordstrom.

Morningstar analyst David Swartz told the Seattle Times that it would be unlikely that Cohen would succeed in shaking up the Nordstrom board with a 9.9 percent stake in the company. However, he could push for splitting Nordstrom from its its off-price Nordstrom Rack concept, as well as sell off some of the company’s real estate holdings. The company considered breaking up Nordstrom and Nordstrom Rack in December 2021, but eventually decided against the move.

Cohen also may run into resistance he didn’t face with Bed Bath & Beyond, as members of the Nordstrom family still have a stake in their family business, with Erik B. Nordstrom serving as CEO and a board member, and Peter E. Nordstrom serving as president and chief brand officer in addition to serving on the company’s board.

What happens next remains uncertain, but if Cohen’s previous actions are any indication, dramatic changes could be in store for Nordstrom. Cohen did not respond to a request for comment.