The new Bed Bath & Beyond's CEO is out, days after activist firm called for his ouster

Scott Mlyn | CNBC
  • The new Bed Bath & Beyond announced it was parting ways with its CEO, Jonathan Johnson, as the company faces activist pressure from hedge fund JAT Capital.
  • Two weeks ago, the company had been soliciting meetings with Johnson for Monday.
  • Johnson had been with the company, previously known as, for more than 20 years and led its acquisition of Bed Bath & Beyond out of bankruptcy.

The new Bed Bath & Beyond announced Monday its CEO, Jonathan Johnson, is immediately stepping down from his position just days after activist hedge fund JAT Capital called for his ouster.

JAT Capital, which has a 9.6% stake in the company, sent a letter to the board dated Thursday that blamed Johnson for the company's poor financial performance and said he needs to be "removed immediately."

"He has performed poorly (as demonstrated by the company's financials relative to its peer group), he has communicated poorly with investors and the sell-side community and he has recently taken actions that give the appearance that his own interests are being prioritized," said the letter, which was revealed in a securities filing.

In the letter, JAT said Marcus Lemonis, the Camping World CEO and TV personality who starred in CNBC's "The Profit," should take over management of the company. He joined the Overstock board last month and has cheered its transition to Beyond Inc., which took effect Monday.

Johnson had been Overstock's chief executive since 2019. He led the company through its acquisition of Bed Bath & Beyond earlier this year.

David Nielsen, Beyond's president and a former Payless ShoeSource executive, has taken over as interim CEO while the board undergoes a search for a permanent candidate. 

"Following the recent acquisition of the Bed Bath & Beyond brand and our corporate renaming as Beyond, Inc., the Board and Jonathan determined that this is the ideal time for a transition in leadership to guide the company forward," Allison Abraham, Beyond's board chair, said in a statement. 

Beyond said Johnson's departure "follows mutual agreement" between him and the board to transition the company to new leadership, but the move came on suddenly. About two weeks ago, the company had told reporters Johnson would be in New York on Monday – the same day its corporate name change went into effect – and said he would be available for meetings that afternoon. 

The company and Johnson didn't immediately return a request for comment seeking additional information.

"As the company turns the page to become Beyond, now is the right time for me to also turn the page to the next chapter in my career," Johnson said in a statement. "It has been an honor to work with such an exceptional team. I am confident the company is well-positioned to achieve broader popular reach as a bigger and better Beyond."

Johnson had been with the company for more than 20 years and took over as chief executive after its founder and former CEO, Patrick Byrne, disclosed he had a relationship with a Russian spy.

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