The video game retailer on Tuesday announced the hire of Elliott Wilke as its chief growth officer. Wilke spent the past seven years at Amazon, including as director of Amazon (AMZN) Fresh stores and the Prime Pantry business, and also previously worked for consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble.
Wilke will start at GameStop on April 5 and be responsible for customer loyalty programs and expanding the use of consumer insights and metrics. The company also appointed two former executives from online pet store Chewy as vice presidents of brand development and merchandising.
Billionaire Chewy founder Ryan Cohen took over a GameStop board seat in January, along with two other former Chewy execs.
The hires appear to be part of an aggressive move by Cohen to overhaul GameStop’s existing leadership team as he seeks to turn its fortunes around, said Michael Pachter, managing director of equity research at Wedbush Securities. Cohen’s venture capital firm RC Ventures is among GameStop’s largest shareholders following a major investment last year.
“It appears to me that Ryan Cohen is running the company,” Pachter said, though George Sherman is technically still GameStop’s chief executive.
GameStop investors responded positively to the news. The company’s shares jumped 11% soon after market open on Tuesday, and were trading around 5% higher midday.
The news comes about two months after a Reddit-fueled trading frenzy drove a massive rally in GameStop’s stock. Many members of the subreddit WallStreetBets say they’re planning to hang onto their GameStop shares, and are counting on Cohen to help bring the company into the digital age.
During GameStop’s earnings call last month — after reporting an annual net loss of more than $215 million and the closure of 693 stores in 2020 — Sherman outlined in broad strokes the firm’s plan to transform itself into “a customer-obsessed technology company that delights gamers.” That plan includes improving customer service and distribution networks.
But Sherman did not take analyst questions during the earnings call, an unusual move that left some wondering about the specifics of Cohen’s strategy for the company.
“[Cohen] apparently has a strategy because he’s said so a bunch of times,” Patcher said. “He’s not willing to tell us what it is. He built a $32 billion company in Chewy, so I think Wall Street is giving him credit that he can turn GameStop into something worth a lot … But I’m still somewhat baffled that shareholders are giving him credit for executing a strategy that he’s not willing to share with us.”
Patcher added that he thinks Sherman may soon leave GameStop, since he appears to no longer be steering the ship. When Sherman took over the company less than two years ago, he appointed his own new executive leadership team, Pachter said, many of whom have since been pushed out, including CFO Jim Bell, whose resignation was announced last month.
“I would say today’s moves tell you that George is on his way out,” Patcher said.
Here are the new GameStop hires from the past two months:
Elliott Wilke, Chief Growth Officer. Formerly Director of Amazon Fresh. He will “oversee growth strategies and marketing, with a focus on increasing customer loyalty,” GameStop said. Hire announced March 30.
Andrea Wolfe, Vice President of Brand Development. Formerly Chewy Vice President of Marketing. She will “help drive branding, content, social media strategy,” GameStop said. Hire announced March 30.
Tom Petersen, Vice President of Merchandising. Formerly Chewy Vice President of Merchandising. He will “help drive vendor relations, product management and related merchandising initiatives.” Hire announced March 30.
Jenna Owens, Chief Operating Officer. Formerly director and general manager for distribution and multi-channel fulfillment at Amazon, and held roles at Google and Honeywell. Hire announced March 23.
Neda Pacifico, Senior Vice President of E-Commerce. Formerly Chewy vice president of e-commerce. Hire announced March 23.
Ken Suzuki, Vice President of Supply Chain Systems. Formerly vice president of supply chain technology at online consumer goods retailer Zulily. Hire announced March 23.
Matt Francis, Chief Technology Officer. Formerly engineering leader at Amazon Web Services. Hire announced February 3.
Kelli Durkin, Senior Vice President of Customer Care. Formerly Chewy vice president of customer service. Hire announced February 3.
Josh Krueger, Vice President of Fulfillment. Formerly held senior fulfillment roles at Amazon, Zulily, Walmart and QVC.