Factbox: J.C. Penney’s revolving door of CEOs

A JC Penney store is shown in Oceanside, California, U.S., July 31, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Blake

(Reuters) – J.C. Penney Co Inc (JCP.N) late last year tapped Jill Soltau as chief executive officer to stem the decline in sales, the fifth leadership change at the department store operator in 15 years.

A JC Penney store is shown in Oceanside, California, U.S., July 31, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Blake

She is tasked with a turnaround bid against the backdrop of a deteriorating brick-and-mortar retail landscape that has forced Toys ‘R’ Us Inc and Sears Holdings Corp to seek bankruptcy protection.

Reuters reported last month that the 117-year-old department store operator hired advisers to explore debt restructuring options that would buy more time for the money-losing U.S. retailer to forge a turnaround.

J.C. Penney CEOs since 2004:

Myron ‘Mike’ Ullman (2004-11; 2013-15)

– Introduced successful Sephora cosmetics shop-within-shop concept. Penney sales and market value reached all-time highs.

– Eliminated Penney’s catalog. Activist investor William Ackman called the company mismanaged under his tenure.

– Ullman said sales and market value results spoke for themselves. Returned as CEO in 2013 after J.C. Penney suffered a tumultuous two years under replacement Ron Johnson.

Ron Johnson (2011-2013)

– The pioneer of Apple Inc retail outlets launched expensive renovations of Penney stores and eliminated coupons.

– The moves sparked a customer backlash.

– After sales fell 25%, Johnson conceded that his plan to abandon coupons and sales events was a mistake. He later said during a conference that Penney should have stuck with his overall strategy, according to Fortune magazine.

Marvin Ellison (2015-2018)

– Hired from Home Depot Inc (HD.N) to address Penney’s falling sales, where he was credited for revitalizing the home improvement chain.

– Focused Penney on home appliances, but shares plunged.

– In 2018, Ellison left Penney to join home improvement chain Lowe’s Cos Inc (LOW.N).

Jill Soltau (2018-present)

– Hired from fabric and crafts seller Jo-Ann Stores, she confronted continued falling sales and financial losses.

– Stopped selling major appliances, including refrigerators and washing machines, and started revamping store layouts to focus on apparel as part of a turnaround attempt that she has emphasized will take time.

– Company hired advisers to explore debt restructuring options.

Reporting by Aishwarya Venugopal in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur

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