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Kohl's CEO Finds Her Credibility Under Fire With Predators Circling

  • Gass championed ‘Greatness Agenda,’ but stock has languished
  • Potential buyers emerge as analysts see positives from Sephora
Michelle Gass
Michelle GassPhotographer: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg
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Kohl’s Corp. Chief Executive Officer Michelle Gass has had a lot of ideas for sparking growth at the department-store retailer, some dating back to before she took the helm nearly four years ago. Most of them haven’t paid off yet.

That underperformance has helped to attract pressure from activist investor Macellum Advisors for two years in a row, and now interest from two potential suitors for the chain: Acacia Research Corp., backed by hedge fund Starboard Value LP, and Sycamore Partners. Kohl’s shares surged 36% on Jan. 24 after reports of the overtures -- putting the stock about back where it was when Gass became CEO in May 2018.