Led by President and CEO Tony Sarsam, SpartanNash successfully retained its board nominees in a key shareholder vote.
Following an at-times contentious process, SpartanNash announced that its shareholders have voted to re-elect its entire slate of director nominees. A preliminary vote count indicates that the Michigan food solutions company was able to stave off a move by two activist investor groups to slot three of their own nominees to the nine-person board.
Those companies, the hedge funds Macellum Advisors GP, LLC and Ancora Holdings Group, LLC, argued that their nominees were needed at the board table to help SpartanNash stay competitive in a tough operating climate. The investors, who together owned a 4.5% stake in the company, also encouraged SpartanNash to consider a full or partial sale and sought to replace the board chairman.
Ahead of the vote, proxy advisers got involved with recommendations. In May, SpartanNash proxy advisor Glass Lewis recommend SpartanNash's director nominees, while another proxy firm, ISS, endorsed the candidates nominated by Macellum and Ancora.
Macellum has a history of shaking things up. Earlier this year, the firm tried to take control of the board at retailer Kohl’s, putting forth 10 directors for consideration; similar to SpartanNash, shareholders at Kohl’s voted down those nominees.
Following the vote during SpartanNash’s annual meeting on June 9, members of the full SpartanNash board include Douglas Hacker, Shân Atkins, Matthew Mannelly, Julien Mininberg, Jaymin Patel, Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Hawthorne Proctor, Pamela Puryear, Ph.D. and William Voss, along with SpartanNash President and CEO Tony Sarsam. The company added Mininberg, Patel and Puryear to the board in February as part of a comprehensive board refresh.
Sarsam was hired in late 2020 to effect change at SpartanNash. During his tenure, he has led an effort to restructure the company’s leadership, launched new “Winning Recipe” strategies and focused on a “People First” culture.
On the heels of the vote, SpartanNash released a statement: “We appreciate the significant support for the company's plan that we have received from our shareholders throughout this process. Today’s outcome reinforces that SpartanNash shareholders recognize that the company’s strategy is working, and the company has the right board in place to continue guiding the business forward. The board and management team will remain focused on executing the company’s ongoing transformation through our operating model and People First culture to drive long-term, sustainable value creation for our shareholders. We thank our 17,500 SpartanNash associates for their continued dedication to serving our customers, our store guests and one another.”
In addition to approving the roster of directors, shareholders approved other proposals submitted for a vote at the annual meeting, SpartanNash reported. Final voting results will be released after they are approved by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
SpartanNash’s core businesses include distributing grocery products to independent and chain retailers, its corporate-owned retail stores, and U.S. military commissaries and exchanges, as well as fresh produce distribution and fresh food processing. No. 41 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America, the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based company serves customer locations in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, Europe, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Honduras, Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Djibouti. SpartanNash also operates 145 supermarkets and employs 17,500 associates.