Orange County Business Journal

Major Shareholder Calls for Sale of Wet Seal

Kari Hamanaka Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A major shareholder of Foothill Ranch-based Wet Seal Inc. called for the retailer’s sale in a letter sent to its board of directors today.

New York-based asset management firm Clinton Group Inc. holds a 4.25% stake in Wet Seal. Its call for a sale followed the termination of Susan McGalla as chief executive of the company, which operates 470 Wet Seal stores for teen girls and 83 Arden B stores for young women.

Clinton Group Senior Portfolio Manager Joseph De Perio called McGalla’s termination “a good first step in creating value for shareholders” and went on to say “the right next step is for the company to be sold.”

“We simply cannot wait for the board to hire yet another chief executive—the next one will be the fourth in five years—to embark on yet another change in strategy with the aim of turning around the company,” De Perio said in the letter. “That path is simply too uncertain.”

Wet Seal's Board said in a statement released today that it has been in talks with Clinton Group since its initial letter to the Board last month and "continues to review their recommendation regarding use of the company's capital."

Clinton Group estimates the company could fetch a price in the $450 million to $725 million range.

That equates to a per-share price in the range of $5 to $8.

Wet Seal's stock fell by about 10%, to $2.66 a share, on Monday's news of McGalla's departure and Clinton Group's call for a sale. They're up slightly today, to a market value of about $245 million.

McGalla joined the company last January, charged with turning around the company.

Both Wet Seal and Arden B have missed the fashion mark this year with declining same-store sales at each division and an overall same-store sales decline of 13% to 14% for the first three weeks of the month.