Fresh out of bankruptcy, School Specialty looks for a new CEO

Turnaround specialist Michael Lavelle will be replaced for now by board chair James Henderson.

Mark Brohan

The big organizational changes continue at School Specialty Inc., a direct marketer and online retailer of educational supplies to teachers and students.

School Specialty, No. 164 in the 2013 Internet Retailer Top 500 has a new interim CEO following the resignation last week of the company’s former top manager, Michael Lavelle.

Lavelle, who was named CEO of School Specialty in January 2012, will step away from the company on Aug. 2 to be replaced on an interim basis by chairman of the board James Henderson. Lavelle, who joined School Specialty in January 2012 from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt where he served as president of the education group, is leaving after overseeing School Specialty’s emergence from Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

School Specialty filed for bankruptcy in January and listed assets of $494.5 million and $394.6 million in debt. The company hired Lavelle to guide the reorganization, a role he also played as part of a  bankruptcy restructuring at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Henderson, a managing director and operating partner of investment banking firm Steel Partners LLC, will serve in an interim capacity while the company searches for a full-time CEO. “I am taking on this role as Interim CEO,” Henderson says. “SSI has emerged a stronger company, with an improved capital structure, new financing and a strong foundation for the future.”

School Specialty emerged from bankruptcy on June 11 with $320 million in new financing, including $175 million from a group led by Bank of America, N.A. and SunTrust Bank and $145 million from a second group led by Credit Suisse Securities.

Because of its recent restructuring, School Specialty has yet to report its final financial results for the fiscal year ended April 30. In fiscal 2012 e-commerce sales increased 6% to around $133.2 million from $125.7 million in fiscal 2011 while total sales dropped about 4% to $732.1 million from $762.1 million in the previous year. The company in fiscal 2012 posted a net loss of $131.1 million compared with a net loss of $356.3 million in fiscal 2011.


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