Jos A. Bank Clothiers Gets Its Own Activist Investor

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Activist investing is heating up in the retail sector.

Jos. A. Bank Clothiers ( JOSB) shares surged11% on Tuesday and hit a new 52-week-high after BeaconLight Capital sent an open letter to its board of directors criticizing the menswear company's corporate governance and compensation practices.

"We are convinced that tremendous value is trapped inside the company due to the absence of a credible capital allocation policy, an insular board of directors, poorly aligned management incentives and the company's refusal to communicate with shareholders," the Aug. 13 letter said.

BeaconLight and its affiliates own more than 1% of Jos. A. Bank's common stock, according to the letter.

"The company's stock could be worth more than $70 per share today, which better reflects the solid business that has been built over the last two decades," the letter said.

The move follows the recent dramatic events that unfolded at J.C. Penney ( JCP) over the past week, culminating in Bill Ackman's resignation from the department store's board of directors.

Shares of Jos A. Banks surged 11% to $44.73 at last check. Shares of J.C. Penney were falling on Tuesday by 3.4% to $12.72.

"We believe that Jos. A. Bank has a solid long-term foundation, a talented operational management team, and exciting growth prospects. With the right capital allocation, strong corporate governance, better aligned management incentives and more appropriate investor communication, we believe that the company and its shareholders will thrive in the years to come," the letter said.

Jos. A. Bank did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The issues raised in BeaconLight Capital's letter are a culmination of an increasingly frustrated investor base with the company.

One of the biggest sources of contention has been former CEO and non-executive chairman Robert N. Wildrick's annual $825,000 consulting fee supposedly for services related to finding strategic acquisitions. Wildrick, 68, was the company's chief executive for nine years before handing over the position to R. Neal Black in 2008 to become non-executive chairman.

But still Jos A. Bank has not engaged in any acquisitions, even though it formally announced in June that it was considering "strategic opportunities to enhance shareholder value," which included potential acquisitions and hired investment banking firm Financo.

Black told TheStreet in June that the company was looking for opportunities "where we can leverage the management expertise that we have and the assets of the company where the combined expertise represents long-term value for our shareholders." No acquisition timetable was given at the time.

Specifically BeaconLight wants the Hampstead, Md.-based company to: de-stagger its board of directors and add "truly independent directors" who do not have prior connections to the current board or management; return all of the company's cash to shareholders through share buybacks; rework compensation practices to better align management incentives with long-term shareholder value; and finally, terminate Wildrick's consulting arrangement "and use the cash savings to build a legitimate investor relations department," the letter said.

Jos. A. Bank has also been linked to the possibility of a merger with Men's Wearhouse ( MW ). The company went through its own boardroom drama in June when the company fired founder and former brand spokesman and executive chairman George Zimmer from the board following his clash with management.

-- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.

To contact Laurie Kulikowski, send an email to: Laurie.Kulikowski@thestreet.com.

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