U.S. Markets

Destination Maternity names Ryan as CEO after activists win proxy

BOSTON (Reuters) - Destination Maternity DEST.O named veteran retail executive Marla Ryan as its new chief executive on Wednesday, one week after a group of activist investors took control of the board at the maternity and baby clothing retailer.

Ryan, who previously held positions at Lands’ End, J. Crew, Inc. and Brooks Brothers, will be Destination Maternity’s first permanent CEO since Anthony Romano stepped down in September. Two interim CEOs followed Romano.

“We believe that Marla is the ideal leader to drive immediate change at Destination Maternity,” board Chair Anne-Charlotte Windal, who was elected last week, said in a statement.

Ryan was voted onto Destination Maternity’s the board last week when investors broadly backed a dissident slate of four directors, including three women.

The slate replaced all sitting directors, and their election marks the first time in recent corporate history that a majority of women dissident directors have won a proxy contest. Ryan and Windal were elected along with Holly Alden, co-founder of audio accessory company Skullcandy, and investor Christopher Morgan.

Hours after being elected to the board, Ryan met with senior managers at the company and a day later she held two town hall meetings with staff at the company’s Moorestown, New Jersey, headquarters, said a person familiar with her schedule but not permitted to discuss it publicly.

Activists Nathan Miller and Peter O’Malley, who own roughly 9 percent of the company, had spent months pushing for it to improve operations and argued that the maternity clothing company needed more gender diversity.

Its stock traded at $3.40 on Wednesday after it had climbed nearly 7 percent to close at $2.90 a week ago after the dissidents were elected.

Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss; Editing by Dan Grebler