Activist Elliott builds roughly 13% stake in Etsy, secures board seat

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Etsy Sellers Market in Times Square celebrating Etsy’s celebration going IPO at Nasdaq on April 16, 2015 in New York City.
Paul Zimmerman |  Getty Images

Activist investor Elliott Management has a “sizable” investment in e-commerce firm Etsy, which announced on Thursday that Elliott partner Marc Steinberg would join the company’s board.

The activist investor has built a roughly 13% position in the stock, a person familiar with the matter told CNBC. That economic interest is a blend of shares and options, CNBC’s David Faber said. The position would make it Etsy’s largest investor.

“I am looking forward to working with the Board and supporting Josh and the team as they execute on initiatives to improve the customer experience, accelerate top- and bottom-line growth, and drive long-term value,” Steinberg said in a release.

Etsy shares shot up more than 10% on the news. Elliott and Etsy have been meeting for a few months, CNBC’s David Faber said. Still, the e-commerce company’s stock is down about 10% year-to-date. Etsy’s other largest shareholders include Vanguard, with an 11% ownership stake, and BlackRock, which holds around 5% of shares.

Activists will often build their positions in companies using a mix of direct ownership and derivatives.

Etsy CEO Josh Silverman said the firm was “excited” to welcome Steinberg to the board.

Elliott has a successful track record at myriad companies and is one of the largest activist investors, managing about $59 billion in assets as of June 2023. It is also engaged in campaigns at Match Group, Philips 66, and Crown Castle, and has previously led campaigns at Salesforce, Pinterest, and Dropbox.

The opening months of any year most often see significant activist activity, as many companies’ nominating deadlines near.

Founded in 2005, Etsy is an online marketplace that made its name as a platform for artisanal and handmade goods made by small businesses. It competes with e-commerce companies including Amazon, which has its own handcrafted products platform.

Etsy was one of the biggest beneficiaries of the pandemic, as stuck-at-home shoppers turned to it and other online retailers for essentials and non-essentials. But the company has struggled in recent quarters, as the pandemic-driven e-commerce boom didn’t last, and inflation-weary consumers pulled back on their spending. In December, Etsy announced it would lay off 11% of its staff, or roughly 225 employees.

Silverman has tried to expand the company’s portfolio through acquisitions including resale platform Depop, Brazil-based marketplace Elo7, and Reverb, a marketplace for new and used instruments, to create a “house of brands.”

That strategy has had mixed results, with Etsy offloading Elo7 last July, about two years after acquiring the company for $217 million.

More recently, Etsy has faced growing competition from low-cost Chinese retailers Temu and Shein, with Silverman acknowledging the companies are “taking a little bit of share from everyone.”

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