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Retailer’s CFO plunges to death at NYC’s Jenga tower

WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

BED BATH & BEYOND, Inc.’s chief financial officer (CFO) fell to his death from New York’s Tribeca skyscraper known as the “Jenga” tower on Friday afternoon, police said on Sunday, days after the struggling retailer announced it was closing stores and laying off workers.

Gustavo Arnal, 52, joined Bed Bath & Beyond in 2020. He previously worked as CFO for cosmetics brand Avon in London and had a 20-year stint with Procter & Gamble,  according to his LinkedIn profile.

On Friday at 12:30 p.m. ET (1630 GMT), police responded to a 911 call and found a 52-year-old man dead near the building who suffered injuries from a fall. Police identified the man as Gustavo Arnal.

The police statement did not provide further details on the circumstances leading to Mr. Arnal’s death and said the New York City Medical Examiner’s Office would determine the cause of death. Bed Bath & Beyond confirmed his death in a press statement on Sunday but gave no details.

The big-box chain — once considered a so-called “category killer” in home and bath goods — has seen its fortunes falter after an attempt to sell more of its own brand, or private-label goods.

Last week, Bed Bath & Beyond said it would close 150 stores, cut jobs and overhaul its merchandising strategy in an attempt to turn around its money-losing business.

It forecast a bigger-than-expected 26% slump in same-store sales for the second quarter and said it would retain its Buy Buy Baby business, which it had put up for sale.

Mr. Arnal sold 55,013 shares in Bed Bath & Beyond in multiple transactions on Aug. 16-17, Reuters’ calculations showed based on SEC filings. The sales amounted to about $1.4 million, and Mr. Arnal still had almost 255,400 shares remaining.

On Aug. 23, the company, Mr. Arnal and major shareholder Ryan Cohen were sued over accusations of artificially inflating the firm’s stock price in a “pump and dump” scheme, with the lawsuit alleging Mr. Arnal sold off his shares at a higher price after the scheme.

The class action lawsuit listed Mr. Arnal as one of the defendants and was brought by a group of shareholders who claimed they lost around $1.2 billion.

The filing in the US District Court for the District of Columbia alleged that Mr. Arnal “agreed to regulate all insider sales by BBBY’s officers and directors to ensure that the market would not be inundated with a large number of BBBY shares at a given time.”

The lawsuit also alleged that he issued materially misleading statements to investors.

The company said it was “in the early stages of evaluating the complaint, but based on current knowledge the company believes the claims are without merit.”

Shares in Bed Bath & Beyond have been highly volatile in recent months, being viewed as a so-called “meme” stock, which trade more on social media sentiment than economic fundamentals.

Cohen, a billionaire investor, disclosed a stake of nearly 10% in early March. Cohen’s RC Ventures disclosed plans to sell its stake on Aug. 17. — Reuters

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