by Max Brantley
That headline is, I think, a fair summary of the opinion of company management expressed in a tough letter sent to the company's board by a highly disaffected owner of Dillard's shares. The letter notes that the company has lost 50 percent of its market value -- from $3.8 billion to $1.9 billion -- since William Dillard II took over in 1998, despite $5 billion in investments and acquisitions. This led one analyst to conclude the company is a "wasting asset." And there are nuggets like this:
It appears to us that William T. Dillard, II has established an insular culture at Dillard's which includes a mind-set that the Company need only be responsive to the input, interests and concerns of the Dillard family. We are keenly aware of the reclusive nature of the Dillard's management team, which routinely avoids meeting with stockholders and does not hold quarterly earnings conference calls despite the fact that almost all other companies in the S&P 500 do so.(1) There are also numerous accounts of the Company refusing to speak with analysts and reporters. As Luisa Kross has stated in a past Forbes article, "The family answers to no one, running the company as if it were private."
Problem for the investor, of course, is that the corporate structure makes it difficult to do anything about the situation but bitch. However, I should add that there's plenty of speculation that the letter-writing campaign is preparatory to a stockholders' lawsuit.
ALSO: Edna, an old Dillard's hand, has a long and interesting commentary on matildaintherock.