Bed Bath & Beyond CFO plunges to death at New York’s Jenga tower

NEW YORK – Bed Bath & Beyond’s chief financial officer fell to his death from New York’s Tribeca skyscraper, also known as the “Jenga” tower, last Friday afternoon, police said on Sunday, days after the struggling retailer announced that it was closing stores and laying off workers.

Mr Gustavo Arnal, 52, joined Bed Bath & Beyond in 2020. He previously worked as CFO for cosmetics brand Avon in London and had a 20-year stint with Procter & Gamble, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Police responded to a 911 call at 12.30pm on Friday and found a 52-year-old man dead near the building who suffered injuries from a fall. Police identified the man as Mr Arnal.

A police statement did not provide further details on the circumstances leading to Mr Arnal’s death and said the New York City Medical Examiner’s Office would determine the cause of death. Bed Bath & Beyond confirmed his death in a press statement on Sunday but gave no details.

The big-box chain – once considered a so-called “category killer” in home and bath goods – has seen its fortunes falter after an attempt to sell more of its own brand, or private-label goods.

Last week, Bed Bath & Beyond said it would close 150 stores, cut jobs and overhaul its merchandising strategy in an attempt to turn around its money-losing business. It forecast a bigger-than-expected 26 per cent slump in same-store sales for the second quarter and said it would retain its Buybuy Baby business, which it had put up for sale.

Mr Arnal sold 55,013 shares in Bed Bath & Beyond in multiple transactions on Aug 16 to 17, Reuters’ calculations showed based on Securities and Exchange Commission filings. The sales amounted to about US$1.4 million (S$2 million), and Mr Arnal still had almost 255,400 shares remaining.

On Aug 23, the company, Mr Arnal and major shareholder Ryan Cohen were sued over accusations of artificially inflating the firm’s stock price in a “pump and dump” scheme, with the lawsuit alleging that Mr Arnal sold off his shares at a higher price after the scheme.

The class-action lawsuit listed Mr Arnal as one of the defendants and was brought by a group of shareholders who claimed they lost around US$1.2 billion.

The court filing alleged that Mr Arnal “agreed to regulate all insider sales” by Bed Bath & Beyond’s officers and directors to ensure that the market would not be inundated with a large number of its shares at a given time.

The lawsuit also alleged that he issued materially misleading statements to investors. The company said it was “in the early stages of evaluating the complaint, but based on current knowledge, the company believes the claims are without merit”.

Shares in Bed Bath & Beyond have been highly volatile in recent months, being viewed as a so-called “meme” stock that trades more on social media sentiment than economic fundamentals.

Mr Cohen, a billionaire investor, disclosed a stake of nearly 10 per cent in early March. His RC Ventures disclosed plans to sell its stake on Aug 17. REUTERS