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PHILADELPHIA-Without explanation, the Pep Boys–Manny Moe & Jack have announced the resignation of CEO and director Larry Stevenson. Non-executive chairman Bill Leonard has been named interim CEO.

The move follows the company’s Feb. 10 enlistment of Goldman Sachs to explore strategic and financial alternatives for increasing shareholder value and two major shareholders’ demand for an annual meeting date. According to a Pep Boys statement announcing the resignation, its board “has appointed a special committee to conduct a search among internal and external candidates for a permanent CEO.”

James Mitarotonda, head of New York City-based Barrington Capital Group, which holds nearly 10% of the locally based auto parts dealer’s stock, has called for Stevenson’s resignation. However, in February, according to an SEC filing, Stevenson’s contract was extended.

In a letter to the board, Mitarotonda wrote, “We believe that change is needed now at Pep Boys-–not just at the CEO level, but at the board level as well.” He also called for a date for Pep Boys annual shareholder meeting, calling a delay “unacceptable” in light of its declining stock.

Shares of PBY stock hit its 52-week high of $16.55 a share on the NYSE following its announced enlistment of Goldman Sachs on Feb. 10. On June 29, the stock fell to its 52-week low of $10.86 a share.

On that day, Norwalk, CT-based Pirate Capital LLC, which via affiliates holds about 8.3% of Pep Boys stock, also wrote to Leonard demanding that an annual shareholder meeting by held by Sept. 15. It referred to the Goldman Sachs evaluation and said, “shareholders were assured that the board was working to increase shareholder value. It is now five months into the process, the stock has declined approximately 30%, and shareholder value has been destroyed.”

According to the letter, signed by David A. Lorber, Pirate senior investment analyst, Pep Boys 2005 annual meeting was held on June 8. “We encourage Goldman Sachs to continue working with parties interested in purchasing the company,” Lorber wrote. “Concurrently, we remind you and the entire board of your fiduciary duty to serve the Pep Boys shareholders. As a part of this duty the board must provide shareholders with an annual meeting date.”

Leonard has served on Pep Boys’ board since 2002 and as its chairman since February. He was an officer of locally based Aramark Corp. since 1992 and retired as its president and CEO in 2004. Stevenson joined Pep Boys as CEO in May 2003. He was later also named chairman, but gave the latter title up this February when Leonard took that post.

A call by GSR to Pep Boys was not returned by deadline. In late morning on July 18, following the announcement of Stevenson’s resignation, shares of PBY were trading at $12.77 a share, up 12.3% for the day.

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