Hedge fund Tiger sends letter to GameStop urging retailer to adopt a turnaround plan

  • Julian Robertson's Tiger Management sends a letter to GameStop's board urging it to "launch a strategic review and revive shareholder confidence in the sustainability of the GameStop business model."
  • Despite the letter, Tiger maintains it's a passive shareholder and would simply sell GameStop shares if the company failed to "implement a turnaround plan."
  • The letter urges GameStop to pause destructive acquisitions, divest some businesses and buy back stock.

Tiger Management has sent a letter to the board of GameStop, urging the video game retailer to conduct a strategic review amid recent management upheaval.

"We view the recent management departures and crisis of confidence as an unprecedented opportunity for the Board to launch a strategic review and revive shareholder confidence in the sustainability of the GameStop business model," the letter, which was reviewed by CNBC, said.

Tiger Management, the nearly 3-decade-old hedge fund founded and led by Julian Robertson, has been building up its stake in GameStop this year. Crawford Hawkins, a portfolio manager at the firm, signed the letter. He declined to comment to CNBC.

Letters of this kind are associated with activist investors, or managers known for taking stakes in companies and suggesting strategic changes the company can pursue to boost the stock price.

Tiger Management said in the letter that it plans to "remain a passive shareholder" and has "no intention of becoming an activist investor."

"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," Tiger Management said.

The shares rose slightly in in trading Wednesday.

GameStop shares have declined about 45 percent over the last year compared with the Russell 2000's gain of about 15 percent. On Friday, GameStop announced that CEO Michael Mauler resigned abruptly after only three months on the job causing additional pressure on the shares. Co-founder Daniel DeMatteo was named the interim CEO.

Paul Raines had left the CEO post in November due to medical reasons and died in March. Mauler was named CEO in February and within days, GameStop fired two top executives.

The exact size of Tiger's stake couldn't be learned. Public disclosures indicate Tiger's stake at the end of the quarter of only 25,000 shares, but the firm has likely continued adding to the position since March 31 without breaching the 5 percent ownership threshold requiring additional filings.

Julian H. Robertson Jr. speaking at the 2017 Delivering Alpha conference in New York on Sept. 12, 2017.
David A. Grogan | CNBC
Julian H. Robertson Jr. speaking at the 2017 Delivering Alpha conference in New York on Sept. 12, 2017.

In the letter, Tiger Management urged management to reiterate its commitment to pause acquisitions, which the firm says have historically "resulted in a significant destruction of shareholder capital."

"We hope that this is only the first step and that you will strategically evaluate all facets of the business to develop a more detailed turnaround plan, which can then be communicated to shareholders," Tiger Management's Hawkins wrote.

Tiger Management said that GameStop should analyze cost-cutting measures, particularly surrounding administrative expenses. Tiger suggested that GameStop consider divestitures of "ancillary businesses that continue to drain valuable resources, specifically Technology Brands, ThinkGeek.com and International segments."

The firm also noted that GameStop's decision to "pay down debt rather than buying back deeply undervalued shares of common equity signals a lack of confidence in the core business and fuel investor concerns about the sustainability of dividend payments going forward."

Tiger Management said GameStop should communicate a capital allocation plan that restores investor confidence in the company.

A GameStop representative said in a statement to CNBC:

"I can confirm that GameStop did receive the letter from Tiger Management, L.L.C. GameStop has a long track record of welcoming communication from all of its shareholders and values constructive input that may help increase shareholder value."

The company reports earnings on May 24 and Tiger Management said it hopes GameStop will announce its strategic review prior to or in conjunction with that day.