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Stephen Sadove to Join J.C. Penney Board

Separately, board member Geraldine B. Laybourne is stepping down so she, as chairman of Kandu, can focus more time on the consumer tech startup.

Stephen I. Sadove, chairman and chief executive officer of Saks Inc., is set to join the board of J.C. Penney Co. Inc.

This story first appeared in the October 10, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Sadove is leaving the company following Hudson’s Bay Co.’s $3 billion takeover of Saks Inc. Following exit from Saks, Sadove will then become a member of Penney’s board.

Sadove is also on the boards of Colgate-Palmolive Co. and Ruby Tuesday.

Thomas Engibous, Penney’s chairman, said, “Steve Sadove is admired and respected across the retail industry. Under his leadership, Steve built luxury retail chain Saks Fifth Avenue into one of the world’s most prominent fashion retailers today. He also boasts a distinguished marketing and consumer-products career spanning over 25 years. Steve is an outstanding addition to our board and we look forward to leveraging his expertise as we focus on guiding the turnaround at J.C. Penney.”

Sadove, who joined Saks as vice chairman in 2002 and later took on the additional position of chief operating officer in 2004, became ceo in 2006. Continuing in his role as ceo, Sadove added the responsibilities of chairman in 2007.

RELATED STORY: Signs of Progress Seen in J.C. Penney’s Turnaround >>

Given Sadove’s initiatives at Saks — modernizing the brand and its service levels, differentiating the merchandise assortment, expanding the Off 5th business and moving toward an omnichannel strategy — it’s no surprise some believe he’s the likely candidate to take over the ceo post after Penney’s ceo Myron “Mike” Ullman 3rd leaves. Ullman, who was former ceo Ron Johnson’s predecessor, is said to have stepped back into the position on an interim basis to spearhead a turnaround.

Brian Sozzi, former retail analyst and now ceo and chief equities strategist at Belus Capital Advisors, said, “Theoretically, Sadove was able to see the company’s internal plans before coming on the board as a director. That [Penney’s] was able to attract an industry veteran is a positive for the company.”

Sozzi also believes “Sadove will be Penney’s next ceo. He’s a young guy, a department store veteran. You don’t bring in someone like him to sit on the board and attend meetings every month.”

Sozzi added that Sadove’s network of industry executives could also help attract the “next wave of executives” who can help lead Penney’s as it works through the turnaround process.

Some industry sources dismissed the idea that Sadove would transition into the ceo role. Their belief is “that’s not the plan” and that Sadove “wouldn’t want it” even if the job was offered.

Shares of Penney’s on Wednesday rose 1.5 percent to close at $7.89 in trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Separately, Penney’s board member Geraldine B. Laybourne is stepping down so she, as chairman of Kandu, can focus more time on the consumer tech startup for kids.