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VOL. 133 | NO. 27 | Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Fred’s Pays $100K Hiring Bonus to Second CFO in Seven Months

By Andy Meek

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Scroll through the headlines on any financial news-related service – or just look at a stock performance chart – and the news out of Memphis-based retailer Fred’s Inc. has been, in a word, grim.

The headlines include:

From Zacks: “Fred’s Sluggish Store Sales Keep Investors at Bay.”

On Thursday, Feb. 1, Fred's announced the appointment of Joseph Anto as executive vice president and CFO, effectively immediately. He succeeds Jason Jenne, who was appointed CFO in July and is leaving the company. (Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)

Via the Motley Fool: “2017 Is a Year Discount Retailer Fred’s Would Like to Forget.”

From MarketWatch: “Fred’s Shares Slide 12% After Company’s Loss Widens and it Cancels Dividend.”

And now comes another change at the top. There’s nothing certain when it comes to investing and the performance of a public company, but the investment and analyst community at least likes to see constancy – one reason it’s generally regarded negatively when a change is made in the CFO’s office. Fred’s, which saw its stock lose 80 percent of its value last year, has now had three CFOs in the space of a year.

On Thursday, Feb. 1, the company announced the appointment of Joseph Anto as executive vice president and CFO, effectively immediately. He succeeds Jason Jenne, who was appointed CFO in July and is leaving the company.

This time last year, Rick Hans was the company’s CFO.

Anto brings 15 years’ experience in finance, mergers and acquisitions, and business development in the media industry. He previously served as senior vice president of strategy and M&A at MediaNews Group Inc., doing business as DigitalFirst Media, one of the largest newspaper companies in the U.S. That company is owned by the hedge fund Alden Global Capital, whose president is Fred’s board chairman Heath Freeman.

Anto also has been consulting over the past seven months for Fred’s, which has been in the midst of a protracted company-wide turnaround effort.

The day after Fred’s announced Anto’s appointment, it also acknowledged in a follow-up regulatory filing that Anto is getting a $100,000 signing bonus.

“Joe’s experience and expertise is invaluable as we continue to implement our strategic initiatives to drive increased traffic and comp sales, reduce (selling, general and administrative expenses), generate free cash flow and optimize our balance sheet,” Fred’s CEO Mike Bloom said in a statement.

“Joe is a proven financial and business development executive, and brings a diverse set of skills and experience that will help position Fred’s for long-term success.”

It’s yet another in a series of changes that dominated the Fred’s story throughout 2017. By the end of the year, Fred’s had canceled its dividend and acknowledged that it’s considering “various strategic transactions and alternatives” for assets like its specialty pharmacy business.

Fred’s shares, off around 80 percent for the year, are currently hovering right at the stock’s 52-week low of $3.07.

The stock closed at $3.08 on Friday, Feb. 2. That compares to its 52-week high of $19.14.

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RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 89 322 8,071
MORTGAGES 93 381 9,580
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 0 50 1,408
BUILDING PERMITS 236 688 17,295
BANKRUPTCIES 52 207 5,613
BUSINESS LICENSES 35 143 3,091
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 28 128 3,378
MARRIAGE LICENSES 27 120 1,808

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