Unifi Inc. has undergone a major management shake-up this week, with its chairman and chief executive, Bill Jasper, retiring and its president and chief operating officer, Roger Berrier Jr., resigning.
The Greensboro yarn manufacturer disclosed the management changes and changes to its board of directors in a regulatory filing Thursday. The changes were effective Wednesday.
The company has not issued a press statement about the executive departures and leadership appointments. A marketing official with Quixote Group Research, Marketing & PR of Greensboro, said Friday that the company had no comment beyond the filing.
The shake-up appears sudden in timing. Jasper and Berrier handled the company’s third-quarter earnings call with analysts April 20.
It also may have been spurred by a top shareholder group given that Robert Bishop was elected to the board. Bishop is managing principal of Impala Asset Management, a private investment management company he founded in 2004. Impala is the second largest investor in Unifi, owning 6.44 percent of its stock, or 1.14 million shares, according to MSNMoney.com.
The board of directors elected James Mead as non-executive chairman. Mead was appointed to the board in December. He is the founder, owner and president of James Mead & Co., a Connecticut executive search and management consulting firm.
The board appointed Thomas Caudle Jr. as president and elected him to serve on the board until the 2016 shareholder meeting. Caudle, 64, previously served as vice president of manufacturing.
Counting the Nov. 2 resignation of James Otterberg as chief financial officer, three of Unifi’s top four executives have left or retired in the past six months. Sean Goodman took over as chief financial and chief accounting officer Jan. 6.
Also elected to the Unifi board was James Kilts, who founded Centerview Capital in 2006 and is a partner of the firm.
The company said “there are no transactions involving Kilts or Bishop that would be required to report” under regulatory standards.
Peter Tourtellot, managing director for corporate turnaround firm Anderson Bauman Tourtellot Vos of Greensboro, said he was surprised by the shake-up.
“There was an obvious disagreement big enough for Jasper to resign or get fired,” Tourtellot said.
The company reported a 3.3 percent drop in third quarter net income to $9.69 million. Revenue was down 6.3 percent to $161.3 million. Sales were affected, as they have been in recent quarters, by the devaluation of the Brazilian real against the U.S. dollar.
Jasper received $710,000 in salary in fiscal 2015, along with $763,250 in incentive pay and total compensation of $2.22 million. Berrier received $475,000 in salary, $408,500 in incentive pay and total compensation of $1.46 million.
Both Jasper and Berrier had termination agreements with Unifi.
In its 2015 proxy filing, Jasper was to receive $7.59 million in accrued and vested benefits for “termination for any reason” and $8.19 million for “termination due to approved retirement,” which added $594,225 in accelerated equity awards. Berrier was to receive just under $5.9 million in accrued and vested benefits for “termination for any reason.”
Unifi said in the filing that Jasper, 63, would remain on the board and serve as a consultant for 12 months for his previous base salary of $750,000. He will not receive a bonus for fiscal 2016, which ends June 26. He signed a non-compete and confidential agreement.
Unifi said Berrier also entered into a non-compete and confidential agreement for 12 months for $540,000 in compensation. All of his unexercised vested and unvested stock options to purchase company common stock and deferred restricted stock units will be terminated. He also will not receive an annual bonus.
Jasper and Berrier joined the board in September 2007, toward the end of Unifi’s severe financial struggles in which it recorded a loss from fiscal 2000 to fiscal 2009.
During that period, Unifi lost a combined $422.6 million and eliminated at least 2,800 jobs in North Carolina and neighboring states.
Jasper and Berrier were part of a painful management and board shake-up in August 2007, one that had its few remaining analysts questioning its direction and existence.
Unifi pulled out of its financial crisis through the growing popularity of Repreve, introduced in 2006, and the investment in highly automated equipment making both commodity yarns and specialty yarns from recyclable plastic products. Expanded production in Brazil and China also contributed significantly to its comeback.
It has made a profit every year since fiscal 2010 and is on pace to do so in fiscal 2016.
As Repreve enters its 11th year in the marketplace, the question of whether consumers are willing to pay a premium for high-performance clothing and gear has been answered with a resounding “yes.”
About 47 percent of Unifi’s customer base is apparel, followed by 18 percent in hosiery (mostly socks, tights and leg wear), 15 percent industrial customers, 9 percent home furnishings and 7 percent automotive fabrics.