J.C. Penney is searching for a new CEO
J.C. Penney’s CEO Jill Soltau has exited a month after the retailer emerged from bankruptcy proceedings through a sale to Simon Property Group and Brookfield Asset Management.
Ms. Soltau departed Dec. 31 and was succeeded by Stanley Shashoua, the chief investment officer of Simon. The new owners have launched an executive search with the assistance of strategic partner Authentic Brands Group. Management has not offered a reason for the exit.
In a statement, Penney said the move “charts a fresh course” for the department store chain, which hasn’t recorded an annual profit since 2010. “The search will seek to identify a leader that is focused on modern retail, the consumer experience, and the goal of creating a sustainable and enduring JCPenney,” according to the company.
Penney had been showing improvement toward the end of 2019, but a looming debt restructuring and the pandemic forced the chain into bankruptcy in May.
The department store chain’s efforts overall to regain momentum have been undermined by weakness in the apparel category as well as challenges connecting with younger consumers. Since joining Penney in October 2018, Ms. Soltau had focused on reducing clutter to make the core women’s department easier to shop, centering merchandise around lifestyle and emphasizing activewear, special sizes and denim, as well as online.
The Wall Street Journal had described Ms. Soltau’s strategy as a “back to basics” approach. The new owners may be looking for even simpler tactics.
David Simon, CEO of Simon, said on an earnings call in November, “We get out of bad stores. We buy the inventory at a discount. We right-size the overhead. And we operate with better business judgment, and lo and behold, you suddenly have a business that’s got significant positive EBITDA and you haven’t paid much for it.”
Correction: No executives other than Jill Soltau have left J.C. Penney at this time since the retailer emerged from bankruptcy on December 7. Due to confusion over separate holding companies established as part of the emergence, a previous version of this article indicated that virtually all of Penney’s executives had departed.
- JCPenney Charts a Fresh Course and Initiates a Search for a New Chief Executive Officer – Penney IP LLC
- JCPenney’s CEO is out after two years of failure – CNN
- J.C. Penney Seeks New CEO – WWD
- J.C. Penney begins new CEO search focused on ‘modern retail’ – USA Today
- JCPenney to Reduce Debt and Strengthen Financial Position Through Restructuring Support Agreement – J.C. Penney Company, Inc.
- JCPenney’s Jill Soltau Is Out as Retailer’s New Owners Split Company – Bloomberg
- J.C. Penney Plots a Comeback: Less Clutter, More Yoga Classes – The Wall Street Journal
- Will J.C. Penney be renewed under new ownership? – RetailWire
- J.C. Penney rescued. Will it now find success and save the mall, too? – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you view as the positives and negatives that Jill Soltau brought to J.C. Penney? What qualities should Penney’s owners look for in a new CEO?