Sears executives quietly leave as earnings loom

Kmart (69)Business Insider/Hayley PetersonA Kmart store in Richmond, Virginia.

Sears has lost two top executives within the last week, sending a dire warning about the health of America’s once-leading retailer just days ahead of its quarterly earnings report.

Jeffrey Balagna, formerly Sears’ executive vice president, left the company Wednesday, “in order to focus on his other business interests and pursue other career opportunities,” Sears said in an SEC filing dated November 23.

Sears President and Chief Member Officer Joelle Maher also left the company this week, Sears confirmed to Business Insider.

Balagna and Maher were two of Sears’ top 14 executives. The company, which reports third-quarter earnings on Thursday, has not named replacements for them.

Sears’ stock price fell more than 5% on Monday.

Sears did not announce or explain the departures, beyond what was stated in the filing on Balagna; however, the company was quick to scrub the former executives’ names from its website last week.

Sears typically issues a press release or statement when executives are leaving.

For example, the company issued a press release Friday to explain the resignation of Steven T. Mnuchin — a member of its board of directors — after president-elect Donald Trump announced his intent to nominate Mnuchin as secretary of the US Treasury.

Sears also announced the departure of its former CFO, Robert Shriesheim, in May.

Mark Cohen, director of retail studies at Columbia Business School and the former CEO of Sears Canada, told Business Insider last week that the timing of these latest departures is “highly unusual,” being in the middle of the critical holiday season and several days before earnings.

Cohen, who was fired from Sears in 2004, said said the exits could be indicative of something “catastrophic” in the company’s financial performance.

However, Sears has had a long history of turnover in the executive suite, which makes the departures seem like a normal progression of an unfortunate trend for the company and not necessarily a sign of anything dire, Philip Emma, a retail analyst at Debtwire, told Business Insider.

“They have had this revolving door for years,” he said. “This is likely a continuation of that turnover. Given all the issues at Sears that are fairly substantial, I wouldn’t necessarily view this as anything more significant.”

That’s not to say Wall Street is expecting anything but bad news from Sears this week, however, he said.

“I don’t think there is anyone who would be surprised if Sears reported terrible numbers on Thursday,” Emma said.

If you work at Sears or Kmart and have a story to share, reach out to this reporter at [email protected]

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