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Lampert Gets Out of the Zone

The hedge fund manager will leave AutoZone's board to devote more time to Sears.

Shares of


(AZO) - Get AutoZone, Inc. Report

dropped from recent highs Thursday on news that Ed Lampert, the high-profile hedge fund manager who orchestrated its recent success, is stepping down from the company's board.

Lampert, whose hedge fund ESL Investments holds a 31.4% stake in AutoZone, won't stand for re-election to the auto parts retailer's board at the company's annual meeting in December. The company said Lampert is leaving to devote more time to his fund and to his position as chairman of

Sears Holdings



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Shares of AutoZone recently were down $2.32, or 2.2%, to $103.06, coming down from an all-time high Wednesday of $105.99. The market's reaction to Lampert's announcement could be based on concerns that the hedge fund guru is looking to unload his stake at the current valuation.

But Lampert made no indication that his appetite for the stock has receded. He expressed support for the board's nomination of Ted Ullyot, ESL's executive vice president and general counsel, to be his replacement.

"I plan to remain involved with

AutoZone, and ESL currently plans to remain a significant shareholder in AutoZone for the foreseeable future," said Lampert in a press release. "With the steadily increasing demands on my schedule, however, I have concluded that AutoZone would be better served by my not being re-nominated to the Board, in favor of someone who can devote more of his time to these important duties."

Lampert has assumed operational duties at Sears Holdings, and he has recently indicated an interest in making investments with the company's growing cash pile.

Lampert orchestrated the unlikely marriage between Sears and Kmart in 2004, putting two struggling retailers under the same umbrella. Investors have speculated that he want to use the retail chains to create a publicly traded investment vehicle like

Berkshire Hathaway

(BRK.A) - Get BRK.A Report

, Warren Buffett's holding company that started off as an ailing textile mill.