Gustavo Arnal, the financial director and number two of home and decor retailer Bed Bath & Beyond, died Friday after falling from his apartment in a New York skyscraper. The company confirmed the death of the executive 52 years old born in Venezuela. Arnal worked as second in command of the company, which was going through a very delicate economic situation. He has just announced the closure of 150 stores and the dismissal of 20% of the staff.
Investigators are working with the hypothesis of a suicide, according to the New York police. Arnal fell from his apartment in the iconic 50-story tower at 56 Leonard Street, in Tribeca (Manhattan). The building is known for its peculiar structure as the Jenga tower, in reference to the block game in which you have to remove pieces without the tower collapsing. Arnal fell from his apartment on the 18th floor. The executive did not leave any note or say anything to his wife, who was in the apartment at the time.
Arnal had a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Simón Bolívar University in Caracas and a master’s degree in Finance from the Metropolitan University. He had a long and successful career in the consumer sector. Bed Bath & Beyond signed him in May 2020 when he was working at Avon, where he engineered a favorable turnaround for the direct selling beauty products company. Prior to Avon, he also held executive responsibilities at Walgreens and Procter & Gamble.
Bed Bath & Beyond has been bordering on suspension of payments due to its financial problems, caused first by the pandemic and then by changes in consumption habits due to high inflation. The news about changes in the shareholders and about advances and setbacks in the negotiations to refinance the debt have provoked violent fluctuations in the price of its titles, which have entered the category of meme Actions, with prices based more on fashions, buying fevers and feelings than on the company’s accounts.
A class action lawsuit
The late executive was the subject of a class action lawsuit filed on August 23 that accused him of, among others, fraud, insider trading and unfair management. The lawsuit claims he artificially inflated the company’s stock price with false and misleading information. The price has fallen 65% in the last year, to $8.63, but in the first half of August it rose almost 600%, to more than $30, only to plummet again. Arnal sold shares of the company at that peak for an amount of 1.4 million dollars.
Bed Bath & Beyond notified the supervisor of the filing of the lawsuit and noted: “The company is in the early stages of evaluating the claim, but based on current knowledge, believes the allegations are without merit.”
According to the documentation registered by the company with the Securities Market Commission, Arnal’s transfer contract included compensation in the event of death or disability valued at the time in more than nine million dollars. According to the documentation of the last shareholders’ meeting, Arnal had a compensation of 4.65 million dollars in 2020 and $2.9 million in 2021, much of which was stock awards.
“I wish to extend our most sincere condolences to Gustavo’s family. Gustavo will be remembered by all who worked with him for his leadership, talent and stewardship of our company. I am proud to have been his colleague, and he will be sorely missed by all of us at Bed Bath & Beyond and everyone who had the pleasure of knowing him,” said Harriet Edelman, independent company president, through a statement. “Our focus is to support his family and his team and our thoughts are with them during this sad and difficult time. Please join us in respecting the family’s privacy.”