A group of shareholders in The Pantry, led by funds JCP Investment Management and Lone Start Value Management, have publicly criticised the “prolonged under-performance” at the US convenience retailer.

The group, which has called itself Concerned Pantry Shareholders, or CPS, slammed the retailer’s financial record in the last decade. Ahead of The Pantry’s annual meeting on 13 March, called on shareholders to elect three “highly qualified and independent” nominees to the company’s board, replacing directors including chairman Ed Holman.

“Over the last ten years, The Pantry’s stock price has declined by 36%, debt levels have soared, and board fees have totalled more than US$8.5m,” the CPS group wrote in a letter to shareholders published yesterday (25 February).

“The Pantry compares very poorly to its peers with its stock price underperforming its direct competitors by 474% in total shareholder returns and its debt levels double those of its competitors – 4.4x versus 2.2x debt to EBITDA. We, the shareholders of The Pantry, deserve change.”

CPS also pointed to “ten years of high-growth spending” that it claimed had “produced negative value”. The shareholders also pointed to what it said was The Pantry’s “abysmal operating performance”,  a “minimal” roll out of quick-service restaurants at its stores and the retailer’s four CEOs in five years.

The retailer has urged shareholders to vote for its slate of nine nominees, including the re-election of Holman.

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“The Pantry has been successfully executing a clear strategy to drive stockholder value,” the retailer said.

CPS has produced a six-point plan for the business on which its nominees Todd Diener, James Pappas and Joshua Schechter would look to “work constructively” with the rest of The Pantry’s board. The CPS wants a “strengthening” of the store base by “repositioning” or selling up to 500 stores, for the retailer to implement a “successful QSR plan” and deleverage the balance sheet.

The Pantry, in a bid to highlight its work to “create meaningful value” for shareholders, pointed to increased same-store sales, investment in technology, lower debt, its programme to “remodel” stores and addition of QSRs to existing outlets.