In a move that surprised no one, Macy's chairman and chief executive officer said Monday that he will leave the company on Jan. 31 1995, after it consummates its merger with Federated Department Stores in December.
He will receive severance of around $13 million.
Ullman, the highly confident, hard-working manager struggled unsuccessfully to keep Macy's independent in a tough battle with Federated.
Leading Macy's through its reorganization, Ullman took a merchandising-driven company into the computer age by installing new technologies to track and reorder goods. He tackled shortage and operational problems, cut much debt and slashed the staff from 70,000 to 50,000.
He is also credited with implementing the store's buyer-planner system and keeping cash flow at or above plan for the last 17 of 18 months. Sales, however, have continually been below industry standards.
Despite his seemingly boundless energy and cool demeanor, Ullman, along with his team of planners, failed to convince creditors that the chain had more value as a stand-alone company. Federated put the nail in the coffin by outbidding Macy's, valuing the bankrupt company at $4.1 billion, against $3.9 billion by the Macy board.
When the companies announced a merger agreement July 14, Ullman was named deputy chairman of the combined company to assist in the transition. In the weeks that ensued, he tried to negotiate a top-level position with longevity at the combined $13.5 billion chain, sources said.
One source said he wanted to be president, a post held by James Zimmerman, who is considered Allen Questrom's right-hand man. Questrom, Federated's chairman and chief executive officer, offered Ullman other responsibilities, reportedly involving SABRE and credit operations, which Ullman wouldn't accept.
"Questrom wasn't about to turn his back on his number-two guy," said a source close to the situation.
Ullman declined to comment on those reports but said he was "pleased to be considered for the senior leadership."
"Ullman's departure is nothing unpredictable," said a Federated source. "With three men steering the ship, it would have become lopsided."
Ullman's severance is based on a court-approved agreement entitling him to a percentage of Macy's value above $3 billion in the event of the change of control of the company. Federated's bid valued Macy's at $4.1 billion.Ullman, who is 47, is expected to help in the merger transition. He will continue to be a Federated director until May 19, 1995.
"My mission at Macy's is nearing completion," Ullman said in a statement. He added that his team successfully turned around Macy's, which has been in bankruptcy since January 1992.
"While our team would, of course, have been interested to see how Macy's would have fared as an independent company, I am confident that the franchise is in excellent hands and that the combined Federated/Macy's has a very bright future. Accordingly, after considerable thought, I have concluded that this is an appropriate time for me to take on new challenges."
Ullman said he hasn't given much thought to his plans but noted he would consider options in retailing and other industries.
Other ranking officials from Macy's corporate office, which is being dismantled, will soon leave. Among the imminent departures is Roger Farah, Macy's president. Farah came on board in July and had been Ullman's hope for reviving Macy's merchandising. Reportedly, Farah will leave before the end of the year and will not be offered a position at Federated. He will glide home on a $14 million parachute for a few months work.
As reported, Arthur Reiner, chairman and ceo of Macy's East will leave Oct. 16, taking home about $2 million.
"The fact that Ullman is leaving won't mean that all of his work will become unraveled," said one former Macy's official. "Federated has tremendous respect for the buyer-planner system, which he initiated." Under that system, buyers shop the market and select merchandise, while planners shape the size of the buy and how it gets distributed to stores. It relieves buyers of much of the time-consuming traveling to store branches.
"He's been a very effective leader, and he worked like a madman," said a former Macy's official.
Ullman began his career as an international account manager at IBM, where he was responsible for consumer and retail clients. He later was vice president for business affairs at the University of Cincinnati, his alma mater and in 1981, became a White House Fellow, serving as executive assistant to the U.S. trade representative.From 1982 to 1986, he was executive vice president at what was then Federated's Sanger Harris division. It's since been consolidated into May Department Stores' Foley's division.
From 1986 to 1988, he was managing director of Wharf Holdings, a diversified holding company in Hong Kong, where he was discovered by Edward Finkelstein, his predecessor. Finkelstein brought him on board in November 1988 as executive vice president to shore up Macy's balance sheet. After a couple of promotions, he became co-chairman and co-ceo in April 1992, deposing Finkelstein just two and a half months after the company went bankrupt.
"Finkelstein brought him out, and Ullman pushed him out," said another ex-Macy executive.
Breaking News: @louisvuitton's men's artistic director @mrkimjones is leaving the French fashion house after nearly 7 years. Jones joined Louis Vuitton in 2011, following a three year tenure as creative director of British luxury goods brand Alfred Dunhill. Jones is to exit Louis Vuitton after showing his fall 2018 collection for the brand in Paris on Thursday. Read the full exclusive story on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdnews #wwdfashion
For men’s fall 2018, @giuseppezanotti drew on elements from streetwear, sport, biker, combat and rock ‘n’ roll. Pictured here are a pair of shoes from the collection, featuring zippers, rhinestones, and silver hardware. Head to WWD.com to see a roundup of the accessories from Milan’s men’s fall 2018 shows. #wwdfashion (📷: Andrea Delb)
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of @ralphlauren’s snowboarding collection, the brand is mining its archives. The iconic brand is reintroducing vintage styles and dropping new designs for a color capsule that will be available in Ralph Lauren stores and @openingceremony on January 25. The capsule will consist of 10 pieces, including the Snow Beach Pullover, pictured here, which is a collector’s item that rapper Raekwon wore in Wu-Tang Clan’s “Can It Be All So Simple” video. #wwdfashion (📷: Tom Gould)
For @rochasofficial’s pre-fall 2018 collection, creative director Alessandro Dell’Acqua channeled the sophisticated and intriguing Catherine Denevue in the film “Belle de Jour.” Polished collarless coats, midi skirts, suits and ’60s graphic motifs were all featured in the collection, adding a sense of discreet luxury. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com #wwdfashion
“We tried to produce clothing of that couture quality, but the most daunting part was that we only had a matter of days [to do it],” said costume designer Lou Eyrich, who recreated Gianni Versace’s iconic looks for @americancrimestoryfx. Eyrich searched online retailers and vintage shops for original pieces from the design house and for @penelopecruzoficial, who plays Donatella Versace. Head to WWD.com to read how she created the Versace world. #wwdfashion
Only three months after her stellar debut catwalk season, @kaiagerber has inked her first big design collaboration –– with @karllagerfeld. The collection blends Lagerfeld’s Parisian chic aesthetic and the model’s signature West Coast casual style via RTW, accessories, footwear and more. The #KarlLagerfeldxKaia collection will launch in September with a series of events. Get all the details on WWD.com. #wwdnews #wwdfashion
Harrods plans to remove the famous statue of Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed from the bottom of the Egyptian escalators and hand it back to Mohamed Al-Fayed. “We are very proud to have played our role in celebrating the lives of Diana, Princess of Wales and Dodi Al Fayed at Harrods and to have welcomed people from around the world to visit the memorial for the past 20 years,” said Michael Ward, Harrods managing director. “With the announcement of the new official memorial statue to Diana, Princess of Wales at Kensington Palace, we feel that the time is right to return this memorial to Mr. Al Fayed and for the public to be invited to pay their respects at the palace.” More on the news, with reporting by @loreleimarfil, at WWD.com. #wwdnews