Tile Shop's low-profile CEO goes on offense

  • Article by: NEAL ST. ANTHONY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 23, 2013 - 5:12 PM
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The beleaguered brass at Tile Shop Holdings, who saw the stock price halved since a searing Gotham City Research report Nov. 14, visited big East Coast investors last week to try and allay concerns.

The hat-in-hand, no-media meetings with Tile Shop CEO Bob Rucker and CFO Tim Clayton were arranged by supportive Piper Jaffray analyst Peter Keith.

Keith, based in New York, reiterated his 12-month price target of $30 for a company that closed at $13.88 per share on Friday.

“We continue to hold TTS’ growth opportunity, competitive advantages, margins structure, growth initiatives and management team in high regard,” Keith said Wednesday in a note to investors.

Tile Shop is squarely in the sights of short sellers, who profit when a target company’s price swoons.

Daniel Yu, head of research at Gotham City, which usually takes adverse positions, predicted in the report that Tile Shop, which sells Chinese-manufactured tiles, will have to restate past earnings, is overstating its gross profit margins and has not reported questionable relationships with an export company associated with Rucker’s wife.

Tile Shop, which has hired PricewaterhouseCoopers to make an internal investigation, went public in 2012 through a shell company and had a good ride until the Gotham City report.

“I’m trying to figure out this situation,” Yu said on Friday. “There are [also] some board members who apparently want to get to the bottom of this.”

Rucker, 60, a career tile-industry guy who earned $3 million last year, has appeared tentative about running a public company at times. He declined interview requests through a New York PR firm.

Sandra Davis steps down but not out at MDA Leadership

Sandra Davis, co-founder in 1981 of what is now 32-employee MDA Leadership Consulting, was also the first woman in the Twin Cities to own and run an organizational development firm.

Earlier this month, Davis, a University of Minnesota organizational psychologist, turned over the CEO job to veteran MDA colleague Scott Nelson.

“I get to do ‘preferment,’ ” quipped Davis, 68, who eschews retirement. She’s out of administration, but will continue to lead MDA’s CEO & Board Services practices, as well as community work.

Davis, who also remains an owner of the firm, has gotten some notice in her trade for her recent book, “Pearls of Leadership Wisdom: Lessons for Everyday Leaders.”

“Our model for leadership has been ‘awaken, align and accelerate,” Davis said the other day over coffee. “Thirty years ago everybody was talking about the ‘right stuff.’

“But does anyone really want to follow those [macho] CEOs? Leadership is a two-way street. And the best leaders can connect with different people at all levels of an organization.”

Davis said good leaders she’s worked with include Richard Davis (no relation) of U.S. Bancorp, who started out as a teller while attending night college, and Greg Page of Cargill. She says both CEOs are good listeners, strive to learn, and tolerate dissenting views. She also admires Gloria Perez, who runs the Jeremiah Project, which helps working-poor single moms advance through housing and education.

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