GameStop ousts CEO, names Ryan Cohen as executive chair

FILE PHOTO: A screen displays the logo and trading information for GameStop on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., March 29, 2022. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

(Reuters) -GameStop on Wednesday fired CEO Matt Furlong two years after hiring the former executive and appointed billionaire Ryan Cohen as executive chairman, sending the company's shares down more than 20% in aftermarket trading.

Furlong joined the videogame retailer in 2021, just months after the company was at the center of a "meme-stock" trading frenzy where a bunch of social media-armed traders talked up the value of the stock.

Since Furlong's appointment was announced, GameStop shares have lost over half of their value and have fallen about 65% since June 2021.

Billionaire investor Cohen, who made his name selling online pet products retailer Chewy for $3.5 billion in 2017, has been serving as GameStop chair since 2021. He is also a majority shareholder of the Texas-based company.

Cohen, according to people close to him, is very hands on with GameStop's operations and is a demanding boss. At first, Cohen pushed to transform GameStop into an e-commerce giant, but switched gears when online sales dropped and bet on their brick-and-mortar stores again.

He has shaken up GameStop's top management, hiring former Amazon employees such as former chief operating officer Jenna Owens and former financial chief Michael Recupero.

Owens left the company in October 2021, just seven months after joining while Recupero was terminated last year.

"It reflects the utter lack of strategy. They wanted to 'be like Amazon' and hired ... from Amazon in 2021," said Michael Pachter, analyst at Wedbush Securities.

GameStop did not say why Furlong was terminated and did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment seeking details. Cohen and representatives also did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Cohen has been an investor in other retail-oriented companies including Bed Bath & Beyond, Alibaba and Nordstrom.

Pachter said Cohen "is incapable of running a retail operation...It's sort of like Elon Musk running Twitter".

At Bed Bath, he reached a settlement with the company last year for board seats, following which the home goods retailer's CEO Mark Tritton left the company. Cohen sold his Bed Bath shares in August, sending its stock price tumbling.

"While the 'meme traders' love Ryan Cohen, this is not plan 'A'. This (GameStop) is a business in decline and a Hail Mary pass for investors to count on Cohen to turn it around," said Thomas Hayes, chairman at Great Hill Capital LLC.

GameStop on Wednesday posted its fourth consecutive fall in quarterly revenue and missed Wall Street estimates. It also posted a bigger-than-expected loss.

(Reporting by Samrhitha Arunasalam and Niket Nishant in Bengaluru and Svea Herbst-Bayliss in New York; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri)

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