J.C. Penney’s New Chief a Surprise to Some

Oct 28, 2004

By George Anderson

The person thought to be the favorite to succeed Allen Questrom as the chief executive at J.C. Penney, Vanessa Castagna, isn’t talking about the retailer’s decision to go outside the company and hire Myron “Mike” Ullman to run the business.

Ms. Castagna, who has the official title of chief executive of J.C. Penney stores, catalogs and Internet, has been widely credited with helping the retailer reduce costs and improve inventory management with the implementation of a centralized buying system. She has also been praised for improving the department store’s merchandising and for recruiting exclusive designer brands.

Kirk Palmer of Kirk Palmer & Associates, an executive search firm specializing in retail told the Forth Worth Star-Telegram, “I can only guess that the board felt they wanted the depth and breadth of Mike Ullman’s experience, and I would certainly think it would be their fervent hope that Vanessa would want to serve as a strong partner with him.”

In a released statement, Mr. Questrom praised the board for hiring Mr. Ullman who he said “has a superior record of success in retailing, and has demonstrated his effectiveness as a leader during his time at Macy’s, LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, and the DFS Group (Duty Free Shoppers). I am delighted that he will work with our strong management team and associates to continue JCPenney’s growth and success. Mike will be a great asset to our associates, customers, and shareholders.”

Moderator’s Comments: What will Mike Ullman’s hiring as chief executive at J.C. Penney mean for the department store

There’s no doubt about Mike Ullman’s retailing pedigree. The big question, as we see it, is will Vanessa Castagna stick around. It had been widely thought
that Allen Questrom was grooming her to take over his job once he left.

Now that it’s obvious that this was not the case, Ms. Castagna may decide her career goals, which we are not privy to, would be better met in another organization.

If she does, it would be a major loss for Penney.
George Anderson – Moderator

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