Retail’s great experiment has ended.
Ron Johnson, the once highly regarded former head of the Apple retail chain, has resigned as CEO of J.C. Penney, some 17 months after he took over the department store. Myron E. (“Mike”) Ullman, who served as CEO from 2004 until being replaced by Johnson in November 2011, is stepping back into his old job.
The company gave no reason for Johnson’s departure, but its filing with the SEC said, “Mr. Johnson’s departure is not the result of any disagreement with the Company or the Board of Directors on any matter relating to the Company’s operations, policies, or practices.”
Even so, many analysts were openly speculating that time was running out for Johnson and his “transformation,” particularly after Johnson announced Penney’s 2012 financial results, which showed a nearly $1 billion loss. Last week, leading Penney shareholder and Johnson backer William Ackman made critical remarks about the CEO, and an SEC filing showed Johnson’s pay package had declined by more than 96 percent. Some board members had indicated to The Wall Street Journal that they were getting impatient, but also said they planned to give the current state of affairs until the end of the year.
Following his appointment, Ullman told The Journal: “I wouldn’t recommend that we go back to the way J.C. Penney was when I left. Things change … [But] there’s no reason to try and alienate customers who want to try and shop at J.C. Penney.”
Ullman, 66, will earn $1 million a year.