Penney CEO's challenge: Can it be fixed?
There won't be an easy fix for J.C. Penney - if it can be fixed at all.
As Mike Ullman takes the reins again less than two years after his departure, he faces a Herculean task to undo the mess left by CEO Ron Johnson, who was ousted Monday. With the department store retailer in the middle of a disastrous overhaul that has driven away shoppers, the 66-year-old Ullman has to quickly figure out what parts of Johnson's legacy to keep and what to trash.
The overarching question is whether the century-old company can be saved at all. Very few retailers have recovered from a 25 percent sales drop in a single year, like that suffered by Penney under Johnson's watch. On Tuesday, the retailer's stock price dropped more than 12 percent to a 12-year-low of $13.93 as investors' worries escalated about Penney's future.
Apparently, the company's board of directors felt Ullman, who served as Penney's CEO for seven years and is known for strong relationships with suppliers and calm, steady execution, would be the best choice right now to secure the company's future. But it could take Ullman 18 months to stabilize the business, says Burt Flickinger III, president of retail consultancy Strategic Resource Group. He gives the chain a 50-50 chance to survive.
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