JC Penney News: J.C. Penney Spikes on Report of Push for New CEO, Again


By David Benoit

Associated Press

J.C. Penney shares got a boost Thursday on the expectation of more turnover at the top of the struggling retailer.

CNBC was reporting top shareholder Bill Ackman is looking to dispose CEO Mike Ullman, step up the search for a successor and seek to bring back former CEO and retail legend Allen Questrom as chairman.

The shares hit another 12-year low Wednesday as the stock has been unable to regain investor confidence following the brief, but failed, tenure of Ron Johnson, who was pushed out in April. Ackman, lest one forget, handpicked Johnson and then turned on him when sales continued to struggle.

Now J.C. Penney shares are bouncing up 6.6% to $13.64 after earlier rising as much as 10% to a high of $14.13.

How long Ullman, who preceded Johnson and then was brought back, remains in the job has been uncertain.

Questrom went on CNBC and chastised the board for not having made a decision already. Though he said he agreed with naming Ullman as the immediate replacement for Johnson, Questrom told the television network the board should have been planning even before Johnson was ousted.

“It wasn’t something that happened overnight,” he said of that change. “I would say they certainly don’t have the sense of urgency.”

Questrom said he had set a list of conditions in order for him to return as chairman to the company.

“This is something one of the board members asked me several months ago,” Questrom said on CNBC. “I did not want to come back in a hostile board and certainly had to be with a CEO I was comfortable with and he or she was comfortable with me.”

There’s lots of possible reasons for today’s stock rally–such as hope for further changes at JC Penney and excitement about the potential return of Questrom. And don’t forget the nearly 18% short interest. The stock has been wild in the past year.

But Questrom also had a bit of morbid optimism to add.

“It’s a great brand, but there’s been a lot of bad decisions,” he said. “It’s such a great history that you wouldn’t want to give up until it’s dead.”

 –George Stahl contributed to this post.

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