Blue Apron CEO Salzberg Needs to Be Fired

The most recent sign that recent IPO Blue Apron Holdings Inc. (NYSE: APRN) is in deep trouble is that the company announced it will lay off employees. It has only been public since June 29. Its shares trade at $5.30, down from an all-time high of $10. CEO Matthew Salzberg clearly cannot rally investor support to what is seen as a broken business model. The board needs to replace him before the situation becomes worse.

In an SEC filing, company management stated:

Blue Apron Holdings, Inc. implemented a company-wide realignment of personnel to support its strategic priorities. This realignment resulted in a reduction of approximately 6% of the Company’s total workforce across both the Company’s corporate offices and fulfillment centers.

As a result of the realignment, the Company expects to incur approximately $3.5 million in employee-related expenses, primarily consisting of severance payments, substantially all of which will result in cash expenditures. The Company expects to incur such expenses during the fourth quarter of 2017.

The company has been criticized for having a weak and shallow “moat,” which makes it easy for other organizations to compete against it. Based on that broadly held belief, it is hard to imagine why the company became public at all.

Salzberg might have to fire himself, unless his board or outside investors become very aggressive. He held 31% of voting shares before the company went public. His family trust owns another 13%. Huge venture capital (VC) firm Bessemer Venture Partners, VCs that own smaller stakes and co-founder Robert P. Goodman would need to vote against him.

Unfortunately it may already be too late to sack Salzberg. In the most recent quarter, revenue was $238 million, barely up from $202 million in the same quarter a year earlier. The company lost $32 million. The new layoffs are a signal that the bottom line is likely to have worsened.

To make matters worse, Blue Apron is being pounded by shareholder suits that they were misled about the company’s fortunes.

Blue Apron faces competition from Amazon, Costco and Walmart, at least. It needs a completely new strategy if it is to have any chance to get out of its dilemma. The founder and CEO is not qualified to take it in another direction, since he has kept it on its current, dangerous path so long.

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