×

Marcato: Buffalo Wild Wings' stock price could pass $400 by 2021 with activist investor's slate of directors

  • This is the latest volley in the ongoing proxy battle between Buffalo Wild Wings and the activist investor.
  • Marcato said that Buffalo Wild Wings is "years behind nearly every strategic priority it has outlined to shareholders."
  • The hedge fund also reiterated shareholder frustration with the company's financial performance.
Source: Buffalo Wild Wings

Marcato Capital Management wrote a letter to Buffalo Wild Wings shareholders Thursday that accused company executives of mismanagement and called on investors to vote for its slate of directors in the proxy vote set for June 2.

This is the latest volley in the ongoing proxy battle between Buffalo Wild Wings and the activist investor.

"You've heard a lot from both sides," Mick McGuire, the hedge fund's founder, said in a statement. "But what you have not heard from CEO Sally Smith, or any [Buffalo Wild Wings] Board member, is how any of the Company's current initiatives translate into quantifiable appreciation in equity value per share over any time period."

McGuire, who has been critical of the chicken wing chain's management team since July 2016, said that Buffalo Wild Wings is "years behind nearly every strategic priority it has outlined to shareholders."

He said that the company has repeatedly missed its international development targets, has not fully rolled out its loyalty program and order and pay technology, and has wasted money on a guest experience program that has not produced a positive return on investment.

"Shareholders deserve a management and Board who believe in the tremendous future potential of Buffalo Wild Wings — who like Marcato — believe that [Buffalo Wild Wings'] share price could be greater than $400 by 2021," he said.

Shares of "B-Dubs" as the company is sometimes known, were down 1.3 percent Thursday morning, after earlier dropping 2 percent.

McGuire also reiterated shareholder frustration with the company's financial performance.

"Despite dramatic declines in profitability, cash flows, EPS, and net earnings, as well as a reduced 2017 guidance as disclosed in [Buffalo Wild Wings first-quarter] 2017 earnings, CEO Sally Smith's assessment of the Company's performance was that she was 'pleased' that same-store sales growth was positive in the quarter," McGuire said. "Something is not right."

The activist investor began pushing for Buffalo Wild Wings to refranchise more of its restaurants last July. But tensions between the two sides worsened throughout the winter, and then in March, Marcato called for Smith's resignation.

Also in March, the hedge fund published a letter to shareholders that argued that the executives' interests weren't closely aligned with the chain's shareholders since none of the executives and only one director has ever executed an open-market purchase of the stock. Further, McGuire said, management has been using equity incentive plans to purchase shares at a lower price and then sell them on the market to get cash.

"The Board and management team collectively own significant equity interests in the Company. Virtually all trading of the Company's common stock owned by management — who receive approximately half of their compensation in performance-based stock awards — is executed under preexisting plans that are commonly adopted for personal financial planning purposes," Buffalo Wild Wings said in a statement.

The chicken wing chain has defended its management, saying the team has helped generate huge returns for shareholders and it plans to refranchise some of its restaurants.

Once again on Thursday, Marcato urged shareholders to vote a white proxy card to support its slate.

Representatives from Buffalo Wild Wings did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment.