New Nordstrom Billionaire Emerges as Retail Shares Surge
Nordstrom Inc. (JWN), the Seattle-based retailer whose shares have surged 17 percent since June, has produced a new billionaire.
Anne Gittinger, 76, is the company’s largest shareholder after her brother, billionaire Bruce A. Nordstrom. The two have a combined net worth of $2.5 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
The company, which operates 240 stores in 31 U.S. states, last week reported third quarter earnings of 71 cents a share, missing consensus earnings estimates by a penny. It generated $2.81 billion in revenue in the period, while same-store sales leapt 10.7 percent from the prior year, its largest quarterly increase in two and a half years.
“They are one of the few department store retailers that is still growing,” said Paul Swinand, retail equity analyst at Morningstar Inc. (MORN), in a phone interview. “It’s retailing 101: getting good stuff at the right price and getting it out of the store without discounting too much.”
Nordstrom said the fallout from Hurricane Sandy will have minimal effect on its business, allowing it to raise the lower range of its full-year earnings forecast to $3.45, from $3.40. The company has 45 stores located in ten northern coastal states affected by the storm. Shares fell 1.3 percent to $54.09 at 11:20 a.m. in New York.
Gittinger owns 20.9 million shares of Nordstrom, about 9.6 percent of the company’s stock, according to the company’s latest proxy statement. Included in that total are 13.8 million shares that she owns directly, plus 1.6 million shares held in a trust for her benefit. Another 5.5 million shares are held by a second trust for her benefit and are voted by her brother, the company’s former chairman.
She has collected almost $120 million in dividends, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, giving the Nordstrom heiress a net worth of $1.2 billion. She has never appeared on an international wealth ranking.
Colin Johnson, a Nordstrom spokesman, said Gittinger declined to comment on her net worth.
Gittinger serves as Nordstrom’s Contributions Director. She is also the chairwoman of the national board of Canine Companions for Independence, a non-profit that trains service dogs. Her husband, D. Wayne Gittinger, is a partner at the Seattle law firm Lane Powell PC, and a former Nordstrom director.
The couple supports their alma mater, the University of Washington, through athletic scholarships and scholarships for former athletes to attend the university’s law school. According to a 2010 press release by the school’s athletic department, the Gittingers fly to most away basketball and football games on their private airplane.
Wayne Gittinger is a one-third owner of JBW Aircraft Leasing Company Inc., which he controls with Bruce Nordstrom and former company director John N. Nordstrom. The retailer paid more than $443,000 in leases, hanger rents and other fees to JBW in 2011, according to filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
In 2001, Gittinger provided free transport to away games on one of the leasing company’s jet planes for family members of the University of Washington’s director of football operations and head coach. Acceptance of the transport violated rules on state employees accepting influential gifts. The coaches were issued $5,000 fines by the state ethics board as a result.
Nordstrom was co-founded in 1901 by Swedish immigrant John W. Nordstrom, who saw retail as a way to invest money he made during Alaska’s gold rush, according to the company website. Nordstrom and his partner, Carl Wallin, eventually sold their shares to Nordstrom’s sons, including Everett Nordstrom, Gittinger’s father.
The fourth generation of the Nordstrom family has been searching for new sources of growth. In July, the company unveiled shop-in-shops from British fashion brand Topshop Ltd. Last year, it bought HauteLook Inc., the flash sales site that sells discounted designer goods for limited periods of time. In September, it reached a deal with mall operator Cadillac Fairview Corp. to open locations in Canada, its first international foray.
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