Santa Barbara mayoral candidate Angel Martinez has resigned his position as board chairman of Deckers Brands to focus on his campaign “now that it is in full swing after the Labor Day holiday,” he said Friday. Martinez, who retired as CEO in 2016 after 11 years at the helm, will remain on the board as a director. He had served as chair since 2008; John M. Gibbons was appointed to take his place.
The shakeup comes soon after a Deckers activist investor publically questioned whether Martinez and the company have the necessary “leadership, focus, and urgency” to address the shoe empire’s financial struggles. Since 2014, its share prices have dropped from a high of $99.38 to a current value of $64.20. The investor ― Marcato Capital Management ― demanded room on the Deckers board if the company did not agree to put itself up for sale. Marcato specifically named Martinez’s mayoral run among its list of concerns.
Martinez’s supporters, however, counter that Marcato’s statements about his mayoral bid are a red herring, that activist investors like the San Francisco-based hedge fund often use their equity in companies as leverage to force self-serving changes among company leadership. Earlier this year, Marcato successfully shoehorned three of its directors onto the board of Buffalo Wild Wings Inc., which led to the CEO’s retirement, after a bitter battle with the Minneapolis-based restaurant chain.
A political newbie, Martinez is running his campaign largely on his business experience and expertise. Before taking over Deckers, he served as Reebok’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer. He has strong ties to Santa Barbara’s downtown business community, and last week received a key endorsement from the Chamber of Commerce. He’s raised $100,000 and counting in campaign contributions, including $50,000 of his own money.
Martinez previously lived in Ventura County and Hope Ranch, and now owns a downtown condominium. As chair of the Deckers board, Martinez received $5.7 million in total compensation last year, according to a report on salary.com. That included a base salary of $1.2 million and $4.5 million in stock awards. Deckers declined to disclose if Martinez would receive a pay reduction as a board director.