Following Ron Johnson’s departure from JCPenney, the department store chain is in flux.
The company named Johnson’s predecessor, Mike Ullman, as interim CEO, but he’s not likely to be there for long. The company’s SEC filing on the move revealed that he doesn’t even have an employment contract.
George Bradt, managing director of executive consulting firm PrimeGenesis and an expert in CEO transitions, told us that candidates for the opening should keep their distance.
“Don’t take the job,” Bradt said. “Actually don’t even take the interview. The less a new CEO candidate has to do with anyone involved with this organisation, the better.”
The allure of the job is that JCPenney is a big, valuable brand, and whoever leads it next will have immediate national exposure. But anyone dreaming of a turnaround is sadly mistaken, Bradt said.
“The best thing a new CEO can do is to make it go away as soon as possible,” Bradt said. “The faster the new CEO can sell its assets to one of the winning retailers, the better for all involved.”
The longer the company struggles to hold on, the worse things will get, and the less it will eventually sell for, he said.
“What do you do when the reason for your existence ceases to exist? You go away,” Bradt said. “You don’t have a choice in that. All you can hope to influence is when and how you go away.”
It’s a harsh assessment, but there’s no doubt the company is badly struggling. It’s not clear that the company has enough cash left to go through with Ron Johnson’s ambitious plans, or to return to the discounting strategy that made it profitable, if stagnant, under Ullman in the mid-2000s.
With the company’s biggest shareholder, Bill Ackman, reportedly thinking about selling his shares, and with the stock down 12 per cent today alone, the company doesn’t have that long to work things out.
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