A Reuters report published Monday said that the beleaguered game seller tapped a financial adviser to explore a sale. Sycamore partners, a private equity firm specializing in retail and consumer investments, was named as one of the firms interested in buying GameStop. Sycamore has previously bought out mall retailers like Hot Topic, The Limited, Talbots and Staples.
Possible terms of a deal weren't available, but the news sent the stock up as much as 11%, settling at $15.20 at an increase of 9% Monday.
Notwithstanding the Monday bump, GameStop has been on a long slide over the past year. Its stock slumped more than 30% in 12 months as the games retailer buckles under powerful industry headwinds. GameStop's market cap peaked in 2007 at $9.4 billion, but has since shrunk to about $1.4 billion as digital downloads have eclipsed physical game sales, and brick-and-mortar retailers have been hamstrung by online sellers like Amazon.com (AMZN) - Get Report .
"It's clear to us (and many others) that console games will be 100% digital in the future," wrote Piper Jaffray analyst Michael Olson in December 2017, projecting that game sales would reach a tipping point in the near future of 70% to 80% digital sales.
For GameStop, which still derives much of its revenue from used game sales, that means a sense of urgency in transforming the business. Accordingly, the company has seen turmoil in its top ranks this year, with former CEO Michael Mauler resigning in May after only three months on the job. Two other executives had been ousted shortly after Mauler's appointment.
So is a PE buyout likely for the struggling games retailer?
GameStop and Sycamore were mum about the report, but the company has received pressure from at least one shareholder to radically revamp their strategy.
In May, an analyst at Tiger Management, which is led by Julian Robertson, wrote a letter describing a "crisis of confidence" among investors, made worse by the string of executive departures. The letter urged a turnaround in no uncertain terms, requesting cost-cutting measures and elimination of ancillary businesses like ThinkGeek.com and international segments. Tiger Management owned 25,000 shares of GameStop as of a March 31 filing, but has been building up its ownership stake according to CNBC.
"To the extent that you fail to implement a turnaround plan, we merely intend to sell our shares and redeploy capital toward more attractive investment opportunities," the letter said.
Shares of GameStop spiked 7.70% in early trading after that letter was made public on May 16, suggesting that investors agree it's time for a radical change.