Hedge fund JAT calls on to replace CEO - filing

By Svea Herbst-Bayliss

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Hedge fund JAT Capital urged the board of internet retailer to replace the company's chief executive officer, arguing that Jonathan E. Johnson III is to blame for poor financial performance.

JAT, run by John Thaler, owns a 9.6% stake in, and is stepping up pressure, having called on the company in October to consider selling certain assets and to overhaul management compensation.

"The current CEO needs to be removed immediately," JAT wrote to the board in a letter dated Nov. 2 and made public in a regulatory filing on Friday.

"He has performed poorly (as demonstrated by the company’s financials relative to its peer group), he has communicated poorly with investors and the sell-side community and he has recently taken actions that give the appearance that his own interests are being prioritized," the letter said., which rebranded its website under the Bed Bath & Beyond name after it acquired intellectual property from the bankrupt company in June, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Thaler, who wrote the letter just days before's analyst day on Monday, proposed that businessman and television personality Marcus Lemonis, who joined the board last month, should become CEO.

"Marcus Lemonis is clearly the most qualified person available to manage the business," the letter said, adding that Lemonis has offered to allocate time to the company, has bought stock, and has shown that he can communicate effectively with Wall Street.

Overstock's stock price climbed nearly 3% on Friday but has lost 23% in the last 52 weeks.

JAT is not traditionally an activist investor but has signaled mounting frustration with the company and in a previous filing left open the option of pursuing strategies such as running a proxy contest.

(Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss; Editing by Louise Heavens)