Unifi Inc., the largest private employer in Yadkin County, disclosed Friday an abrupt change in its executive-management team — the third departure of an executive in nine months.
This time, it involves Richard Gerstein as global chief marketing officer and as an executive vice president with Unifi’s Repreve recycled-yarn division.
The Greensboro yarn manufacturer said in a regulatory filing that it and Gerstein “mutually agreed” that he would resign effective Aug. 30.
Gerstein was listed among Unifi’s top-five executives in its fiscal 2018 proxy filing. He was named to his executive roles in August 2017. In fiscal 2018, he received $350,062 in salary, $137,556 in incentive pay and total compensation of $1.31 million.
Gerstein would be eligible for up to $421,390 in a “golden parachute” package and 12 months of COBRA health insurance coverage if he resigned for “good reason.”
Gerstein’s departure comes about six months after Kevin Hall resigned as chief executive in March, also by mutual agreement.
Hall was replaced as Unifi’s top day-to-day executive by his predecessor, Tom Caudle Jr.., who served as Unifi’s chief executive from April 2016 until Hall was hired in May 2017. Caudle now serves as president and chief operating officer.
On Tuesday, Unifi said Craig Creaturo would become its chief financial officer on Monday. Unifi said Creaturo’s base annual salary would be $480,000.
Creaturo replaces Jeffrey Ackerman, who stepped down after 15 months in December under mutual agreement.
Unifi’s largest U.S. operational hub is in Yadkinville, where it has more than 1,000 employees. It also has a large hub in Reidsville with at least 250 employees.
Hall took over following a major management shake-up in April 2016 in which William Jasper, the company’s former chairman and chief executive, abruptly retired after five years in both roles.
Unifi replaced Hall as chairman in January with Al Carey, who began serving as executive chairman April 1 — a day after his planned stepping down as chief executive of PepsiCo North America.
The management changeover comes as an unusual mix of top-six investor or investment groups have expanded their holdings in Unifi in the past year.
Those investors hold ownership stakes ranging from 7.23% to 12.2%. Their combined holdings represent about 52.5% of Unifi’s 18.49 million outstanding shares.
As such, those groups — whether individually or combined — wield considerable influence over Unifi’s executive management team and board of directors.
For example, Unifi said in a May 2018 regulatory filing that it had attracted the investment of a mutual fund group, ValueAct Spring Master Fund LP, that has a pattern of activist actions with management.
ValueAct initially acquired 925,000 shares, giving it a 5% holding. ValueAct disclosed Aug. 14 that it owned 1.41 million shares for a 7.7% ownership stake.
Unifi said in the May 2018 filing that ValueAct representatives have talked with Unifi’s management team and board on “a range of issues.”
Those issues include Unifi’s business model, management team, board composition (including whether to seat a ValueAct representative on the board), financial condition, dividend policy, mergers and acquisitions strategy, executive compensation, and corporate governance.
The largest individual investor remains BlackRock Inc. with 2.25 million shares for a 12.2% stake.
The remaining top-six investors and their ownership stakes are Victory Capital Management LLC, 1.56 million shares and 8.7%; Dimensional Fund Advisors LP, 1.54 million shares and 8.41%; Impala Asset Management LLC, 1.51 million shares and 8.13%; and billionaire investor Kenneth Langone, 1.33 million shares and 7.23%.
Langone serves on Unifi’s nine-member board with Carey and Caudle.