How now Brown shoe?

May 30, 2012

One of our favorite sports here at footnoted is reading between the lines of press releases, especially those that announce the comings and goings of top executives. While we’ve yet to figure out how to really be a fly on the wall at whatever meetings go on to decide the linguistic Jiu-Jitsu that ends up in most press releases and filings — as we’ve footnoted before, directors and top executives rarely leave due to any disagreement — our imaginations are probably not all that far off where PR hacks and corporate attorneys try to figure out exactly how to say as little as possible in as many words as they can.

We found a great example in some filings and corresponding press releases yesterday by Orbitz Worldwide (OWW) and Brown Shoe (BWS). Orbitz’ CFO, Russ Hammer, whose profile is still on Orbitz’ site (at least as I type this) apparently resigned on May 23, according to this 8-K that Orbitz filed yesterday. A day earlier, Hammer was named CFO of Brown Shoe, according to this 8-K that Brown filed yesterday. Brown did put out a press release on Hammer’s appointment; Orbitz has yet to, but it did note in the filing that it had named an interim CFO.

Now here’s where it starts to get interesting: Brown already had a CFO — a guy by the name of Mark Hood, who had been CFO for the past 5 years. In the press release announcing Hammer’s appointment, Brown CEO Diane Sullivan devotes an entire paragraph to Hood’s accomplishments during that period:

—I also want to thank Mark Hood for the positive role he has played at Brown Shoe Company over the past five years, continued Sullivan. —We appreciate his contributions toward executing the first phase of our portfolio realignment, and this corporate-wide effort has already resulted in a significant improvement in our first quarter adjusted earnings per diluted share. Everyone at Brown Shoe Company wishes Mark all the best in the future.

In Brown’s first quarter earnings release on May 18, there was no indication that Hood would be shown the door a few days later. Nor was there any indication in the conference call (you can download a copy here), where Hood fielded the majority of questions.

Moving on to Hammer, who before he was at Orbitz was at Crocs (CROX) — hence the quote about him returning to the footwear industry in Brown’s press release — it’s clear that he is a veteran CFO, even if he has jumped around quite a bit, at least recently. After a long career at Motorola, he spent a two very stormy years at Crocs (2008-2010) and then moved to Orbitz, whose stock price took a Crocs-like dive during his tenure.

Brown’s stock has been on a bit of a run as of late. Hopefully, the new CFO’s prior luck won’t rub off here. If it does, those PR types and lawyers will have to ready themselves again.

Image source: Brown shoes via Shutterstock

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