Last August, J.C. Penney's board was criticized for the time it was taking to find a permanent CEO to replace Mike Ullman, who rejoined the company on an interim basis after Ron Johnson's disastrous tenure came to an end. At the time, the board issued a statement that it would be "careful and deliberate to ensure we find the right long-term leader." Now that it's been more than 15 months since Mr. Ullman was made interim CEO, is it fair to ask when the company will hire a permanent replacement?
The Wall Street Journal, citing "people familiar with the situation," reported earlier this week that Penney had spoken with Mindy Grossman, CEO of HSN Inc., about the top job and she had taken a pass. The talks between the parties reached an advanced stage, but an agreement couldn't be reached.
Representatives for Penney and Ms. Grossman have declined to comment on the Journal report, leaving it to others to speculate as to what may be standing in the way of the department store chain finding a new CEO.
Penney faces numerous challenges, many that were behind its decision to hire Mr. Johnson in the first place. These include an aging and increasingly frugal core customer and increasing competition from online merchants. The company also finds itself in search of a new, dynamic leader at a time when other retailers including American Eagle, Dollar General and Target are doing the same.
In an article on TheStreet, Brian Sozzi, of Belus Capital Advisors, suggests that Ms. Grossman, who is big on disruption, may have been put off by Penney's unwillingness to shake up its business. She might also feel that she would have been constrained because of Penney's financial health from testing new initiatives online and in stores.
How attractive is the CEO job at J.C. Penney to top talent in retailing today?