Interim Tag Sticks to Sears’ CEO

Discussion
May 04, 2010
George Anderson

By George Anderson

W. Bruce Johnson is getting up every day and going to work to do his job.
So, maybe it isn’t such a big deal that the chief executive of Sears Holdings
still has the interim tag attached to his title despite being in the role for
two-plus years. On the other hand, maybe it is a big deal.

Michael P. McCauley, senior officer for investment programs and governance
at the Florida State Board of Administration, is among those who see a problem.

“There’s a leadership vacuum,” he told The Wall Street Journal. “The
fact that the CEO has been in the interim status for so long suggests there’s
a serious problem with succession planning.”

There is a concern that not having a “permanent” CEO makes it harder
for Sears Holdings to attract and retain top talent at the company and its
various divisions.

Eleanor Bloxham, the head of Corporate Governance Alliance, said Sears’ failure
to find a permanent CEO sends “a very confused signal both internally
and externally.” 

“No one should have to be a stand-in for 2.5 years,” she told the Journal in
an email.

Discussion Questions: Do you think that Sears Holdings is being hurt
by not having found someone to be CEO of the company who doesn’t carry the
interim tag with them? Where do you see the biggest issues with the current
setup?

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10 Comments on "Interim Tag Sticks to Sears’ CEO"


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David Livingston
Guest
11 years 3 days ago

You could probably have a small group of 5th graders to run Sears and to do better than the current management team. Turnover is so high that all positions are just temp jobs anyway.

Carol Spieckerman
Guest
11 years 3 days ago

I don’t see any disconnects here. In fact, I think changing the company name to “Interim Sears” would make a lot of sense.

Dan Desmarais
Guest
Dan Desmarais
11 years 3 days ago

Sometimes when I talk to people at Sears I think of the story of the frog and the boiling water….

If you drop a frog into a pot of boiling water they will jump right out. If you drop a frog into a pot of cool water they will stay in the pot even when you turn on the gas and start to boil them. They’re there until they’re soup.

Some of the people at Sears try really hard to make a difference and affect some positive change. I guess too many people are content to sit in the pot and boil.

Brian Kelly
Guest
11 years 3 days ago

I say, “enough of the Sears bashing.”

In the past year, what retail stock has performed as well?

Over the past 20 years, what Sears management team has managed any better? Or stabilized executive turnover while growing and innovating the franchise?

Hiring and turnover are two-way streets, folks opt-in and, after a couple of years of retooling their resumes, they opt-out. Who’s to blame?

Walk a store, talk to a customer or look at the share price and I think you’ll be surprised.

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain….

George Anderson
Guest
George Anderson
11 years 3 days ago

I haven’t been able to understand why they haven’t just removed the interim tag from the title over all this time. They’ve thought enough of his performance to keep him around this long, why not just seal the deal?

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
11 years 3 days ago

The interim tag should come off. But what’s the real difference to those of us who do or do not shop at Sears anyway?

Art Ruder
Guest
Art Ruder
11 years 3 days ago

To answer IMRetail – In the past year, what retail stock has performed as well? Although Sears Holdings has almost doubled in price in the past 52 weeks Talbots (TLB) has done considerably better.

Mark Johnson
Guest
Mark Johnson
11 years 3 days ago

They have had a TON of turnover within the company, yet they have succeeded in rolling out a very successful loyalty program that is giving them a ton of behavioral insight into their customers and the marketing team (aside from the CMO just bolting–losing another one–to HP) is quite stable.

Ted Hurlbut
Guest
Ted Hurlbut
11 years 3 days ago

This is Sears we’re talking about, and I don’t mean that necessarily in a negative way. They have been trying a number of different things over the past couple of years, trying to develop greater value for their brands. From a distance, it looks like they are trying to piece together a viable long-term business model, in recognition that the same-old had simply lost relevance in the marketplace.

If that’s in fact what their current strategy is, working with their existing management team might make some sense. Yes, it creates a certain level of uncertainty, but it also perhaps fosters greater flexibility and perhaps (I know I’m saying this about Sears!) innovation.

So, my sense is to evaluate this situation based on how successful Sears is during this period at returning to relevancy, whatever business model ultimately emerges.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
11 years 3 days ago

Sears problem isn’t so much that the “temporary” tag is affixed to the CEO, it’s that it’s affixed to so many of its customers as well. OTOH, I’ll have to give them props for their SHCRealty site profiled last month: loads of fascinating info right at your fingertips…literally.

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