Vornado Realty Trust said it will sell its remaining 14 million shares of J.C. Penney in the “not-too-distant future,” confirming speculation that it would follow activist investor Bill Ackman out of the stock.
“That company’s gone through a lot of angst with Bill Ackman having taken control, having recently sold his 20% block in the company,” Joseph Macnow, Vornado’s executive vice president of finance and chief administrative officer, said at a Barclays conference on Monday. “Our block, the remaining block, is not a long-term hold for Vornado. We will be out of J.C. Penney in the not-too-distant future.”
Vornado, which joined Ackman’s Pershing Square Capital Management in pressing for changes at J.C. Penney starting in 2010, sold 10 million of the shares in March, almost half its stake. While Ackman left the retailer’s board after a bitter public dispute last month, Vornado chairman Steven Roth stayed on.
Mark Semer, a Vornado spokesman, said in an e-mail to BuzzFeed that the company has no comment on the timing of the sale or whether Roth will remain on the board.
Vornado’s decision comes as prominent hedge funds buy into J.C. Penney, including Glenview Capital, J. Kyle Bass’s Hayman Capital, and Soros Fund Management. Macnow noted the liquidity of J.C. Penney shares.
J.C. Penney’s current chief executive officer, Mike Ullman, who took control again after a disastrous 17 months under ex-Apple retail chief Ron Johnson, is doing well in his interim position, Macnow said.
“He has done a very good job of pulling it back together because Ron Johnson’s philosophy, while splendid, tore apart the company and confused the customer,” he said at the conference. Vornado has not taken a position on “contentious activity” among board members on J.C. Penney’s future, he said.
Vornado, which was the second-biggest J.C. Penney shareholder before its March sale and remained in the top 10 as of last month, sold its most recent batch of stock at $16.40 a share. The shares closed at $13.94 each on Sept. 11.
Vornado, with about $2.8 billion in revenue last year, is one of the largest U.S. owners and managers of commercial real estate.
Update – Sept. 12, 1:22 a.m., EDT: This update included Vornado’s response.