Pier 1 CEO Alasdair James leaves abruptly

  • Push-out Score suggests push-out forces
  • After less than two years in the position
  • Thanks and good wishes for James
  • Cheryl Bachelder taking over in the interim

(exechange) — Fort Worth, Texas, December 19, 2018 — Alasdair James, chief executive of Pier 1, leaves. It is an abrupt change. As announced by Pier 1 Imports Inc. in a news release and in a regulatory filing published on Wednesday, December 19, 2018, Alasdair B. James, Chief Executive Officer, has left the home furnishings chain after less than two years in the role, effective December 18, 2018.

No company wants a CEO to flame out in the first years.

Among the 3,000 largest publicly held companies incorporated in the U.S. based on market capitalization, the average tenure of the CEOs who departed over the past 12 months was 8.9 years, according to data compiled by exechange. Only 13 percent of the CEOs who departed over the past 12 months left the position within two years, and 23 percent left the position within three years.

Alasdair James’s duties were taken over in the interim by Cheryl A. Bachelder, most recently Chief Executive Officer of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, Inc., as Interim Chief Executive Officer.

Already a director

Bachelder is already a director of Pier 1. Often a board member is a last resort, someone who is turned to in desperation when a company cannot find suitable candidates. On the other hand, directors-turned-executives represent a blend of outsider and insider.

They don’t have the constraints of a pure insider when it comes to leading painful changes or making unpopular decisions, and they have more company knowledge than a pure outsider.

Having been a director, Bachelder understands the expectations and dynamics of the board and has knowledge of Pier 1’s organization, risk-management practices and strategy.

“Strengthen the business and place the Company on a path to growth”

A reason for Alasdair James’s sudden departure from the CEO post was not explicitly provided. Terry E. London, Chairman of the Pier 1 Board of Directors, said, regarding Cheryl A. Bachelder: “We are confident that she is the right person to oversee the actions necessary to strengthen the business and place the Company on a path to growth as we work to evaluate the most effective avenues to create value for all shareholders.”

Precise information regarding Alasdair James’s future plans was not immediately available.

“Stepped down/resigned”

Pier 1 said: “Ms. Bachelder succeeds Alasdair B. James, who has stepped down from the Company.”

Pier 1 further said: “On December 18, 2018, Alasdair James, President and Chief Executive Officer and a member of the Board of Directors … of the Company, resigned from all positions with the Company.”

“Not related to a disagreement”

“Mr. James’s decision to resign was not related to a disagreement with the Company over any of its operations, policies or practices,” Pier 1 said.

It is a phrase that may be intended to prevent false rumors. It may also fuel further speculation and raise more questions than it answers. Such a phrase should be read very carefully. The exact wording may be insightful.

Share price decline

The change follows a decline in Pier 1 Imports, Inc.’s share price of 95 percent since December 2013.

Chaired by Terry E. London

Pier 1 Imports, Inc. is chaired by Terry E. London.

London serves as the non-executive chairman of the board. He served as interim president and chief executive officer and chairman of the board from January 1, 2017 through April 30, 2017, and executive chairman from May 1, 2017 through July 31, 2017 when he reassumed his role as non-executive chairman of the board.

In the position of CEO since 2017

James became president and chief executive officer and joined the board on May 1, 2017.

He brought to Pier 1 over 25 years of retail and consumer goods experience in the U.S., U.K. and China, including marketing, sales, brand management, customer data analytics, supply chain consolidation, digital/omni-channel transformation and implementation of consumer-facing initiatives.

Prior to joining Pier 1 Imports, James was employed by Sears Holdings Corporation as president of Kmart from August 2014 to March 2017.

In that role he oversaw Kmart’s operations, merchandising mix, and localization strategy, as well as the strategic shift to a consumer-focused, digitally-enabled retailer.

Prior to joining Sears Holdings, he served in various roles at Tesco PLC, a multinational grocery and general merchandise retailer, from June 2007 to August 2013, including commercial director of the global business unit, as well as executive vice president and commercial director of Tesco China.

From June 2001 to June 2007, James served in various roles at GlaxoSmithKline PLC, a pharmaceutical company, including global marketing director for future brands.

Prior to that, James spent his early career in international marketing and account management at PepsiCo.

At the time of Alasdair James’s appointment as Chief Executive Officer at Pier 1, Terry E. London, Chairman of the Board of Pier 1 Imports, had said: “In our search for a new leader to navigate Pier 1 Imports through this challenging and exciting retail environment, our Board sought an innovative, customer-centric and proven leader with a visionary perspective. Alasdair comes to us with the strong, consumer-focused background, track record of success and strategic capability we were seeking. We are thrilled to have him join Pier 1 Imports to lead our future success. With more than 15 years of retail and consumer goods experience in the U.S., U.K. and China, Alasdair has the expertise and global operating skills necessary to drive long-term success for our brand. He is a proven leader in the consumer space, broadly-skilled in sales, marketing, brand management and data analytics, with a track record of implementing consumer-facing initiatives to transform businesses in tough environments while driving operational improvement. We undertook the kind of thorough and thoughtful search process that our shareholders, customers, business partners and employees deserve. As a result of that process, it became very clear to us that Alasdair is the right person to lead Pier 1 Imports. He has the unanimous support of our Board.”

At the time of his appointment as Chief Executive Officer at Pier 1, James had said: “I am thrilled and honored to lead this great organization and be the steward of a brand as storied as Pier 1 Imports. I look forward to working with such an accomplished executive team who have, over the past five years, successfully transformed the Company to a fully functional omni-channel business. The Company’s exceptional brand recognition, loyal customer base and special and deeply-rooted company culture provide a strong platform for future success. I believe there is a significant opportunity in front of us to continue to transform the business and drive growth and shareholder value in today’s quickly evolving retail landscape.”

Unexpected

As a general rule, when a top manager announces to step down with no permanent successor available, it’s a sign that the move was unexpected and too early.

Push-out Score suggests push-out forces

It is not completely certain what forces eventually triggered Alasdair James’s sudden move.

The Push-out Score™ determined by exechange suggests that push-out forces may have contributed to the change.

Read the full story in the exechange report 52.2018 ($).