GameStop, the video game retailer that became the center of a trading frenzy earlier this year, has announced that it has elected Ryan Cohen as its new president and chief executive officer, effective immediately. Cohen, the co-founder of online pet retailer Chewy and a major shareholder of GameStop, will replace Matthew Furlong, who was fired on Monday after less than four months on the job.
A surprise move amid a leadership shake-up
GameStop did not provide a reason for Furlong’s termination, but said in a regulatory filing that he will be entitled to payments and benefits associated with a termination without cause. Furlong also resigned from the company’s board of directors on the same day, reducing it to five members.
The decision to part ways with Furlong came as a surprise, as he had led the company to its first quarterly profit in two years in the fiscal first quarter of 2023. Furlong, a former Amazon executive, was hired in June 2021 as part of GameStop’s efforts to transform itself into an e-commerce powerhouse.
Cohen, who joined GameStop’s board in January 2021 after taking a stake in the company through his investment firm RC Ventures, has been seen as the driving force behind GameStop’s turnaround strategy. He has been pushing for a digital-first approach, cutting costs, hiring new talent, and expanding the company’s product offerings beyond video games.
In a cryptic tweet posted shortly after the news of his appointment broke, Cohen wrote: “Not for long.” The tweet could be interpreted as a hint that he has more changes in store for GameStop, or that he does not intend to stay in the CEO role for long.
A new executive team with Chewy veterans
Along with Cohen’s elevation to CEO, GameStop also announced that Alan Attal, another former Chewy executive and a current member of GameStop’s board, has been named as the lead independent director of the board. Attal will oversee the company’s capital allocation, evaluate potential investments and acquisitions, and support Cohen in his leadership role.
Additionally, Mark Robinson, GameStop’s general counsel, has been appointed as the general manager and principal executive officer of the company. His duties will include administrative matters, corporate development, legal affairs, and support for GameStop’s holdings.
The new executive team consists mostly of Chewy veterans who have worked with Cohen before. Cohen founded Chewy in 2011 and sold it to PetSmart for $3.35 billion in 2017. He remained as Chewy’s CEO until 2018 and helped it go public in 2019.
A mixed reaction from investors and analysts
GameStop’s stock price dropped more than 15% on Thursday following the announcement of the leadership shake-up. Some investors and analysts expressed skepticism about Cohen’s ability to turn around GameStop, which has been struggling with declining sales and store closures for years.
Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Securities, said that Cohen “doesn’t have the first clue” how to run a brick-and-mortar retailer like GameStop. He added that Cohen’s strategy of focusing on e-commerce is risky and could alienate GameStop’s loyal customers who prefer to shop in physical stores.
However, some investors and analysts were more optimistic about Cohen’s vision and track record. They pointed out that he successfully built Chewy into a leading online pet retailer that competes with Amazon. They also noted that he has a large stake in GameStop and is aligned with the interests of shareholders.
One of those shareholders is Keith Gill, also known as Roaring Kitty or DeepFuckingValue on social media platforms. Gill is a retail investor who became famous for his bullish bets on GameStop and his role in sparking the meme stock craze earlier this year. He tweeted his support for Cohen on Thursday, saying: “I like the stock.”