Activist investors Macellum Advisors and Ancora Holding have collectively nominated three independent candidates for election to SpartanNash’s board of directors.

In a Friday press release, the investor group, which collectively holds a 4.5% position in the company, said it believes “SpartanNash’s leadership is wed to a flawed corporate structure and has failed to implement basic operating initiatives while leaving $1 billion of owned real estate sitting idle on the balance sheet.”

As a result, the group said SpartanNash has had poor operating results and sustained share price underperformance.

But SpartanNash said on Friday that its turnaround plan has led to a stronger business and shareholders have enjoyed returns of 251% since the summer of 2019, comfortably beating the overall market.

Shares in SpartanNash climbed 12% Friday and were up another 2% in pre-market trading Monday. The food distributor has a market value of $1.25 billion and the share price is up nearly 74% since a year ago.

The investor group has nominated Macellum CEO Jonathan Duskin, ex Walmart executive John Fleming, and former president of retail for OfficeMax Michael Lewis, who they believe possess “corporate governance experience, finance acumen, grocery and food distribution expertise, strategic planning knowhow and sorely needed ownership perspectives.”

Pushing against the activist board bid, SpartanNash said Macellum originally pressed for a control slate and brought no “substantive views “ on the business in three months’ worth of engagement until a meeting on March 1. “It seems that the investor group’s priority is a proxy contest, not constructive engagement with SpartanNash about ideas that would benefit all shareholders,” said SpartanNash.

Macellum and Ancora were also critical of c-suite “chaos” with the company replacing its CEO four times in five years. However, in its Friday response, SpartanNash noted the 88% total shareholder return since Tony Sarsam was named CEO in September 2020.

SpartanNash’s average tenure and average age of directors exceed the average on the S&P 500, which are governance red flags on Insightia’s Governance module. The activists have targeted Chairperson Douglas Hacker, director Margaret Atkins, and director William Voss, citing their long affiliations with the company as negatives.