By  on November 12, 2004

NEW YORK — An announcement from Vanessa Castagna on her future role at J.C. Penney Co. is imminent, possibly today, according to two sources.

One source said Castagna, chairman and chief executive of Penney’s stores, catalogue and Internet, and considered the retailer’s second-in-command and chief merchant, will announce she plans to leave the company, though Penney’s has reportedly been trying to convince her to stay. Castagna could not be reached for comment Thursday.

It’s no secret she was very disappointed about not being selected to succeed Allen Questrom, Penney’s chairman and ceo, who is retiring. Castagna was a leading contender, but Myron E. Ullman 3rd, a former top executive at Macy’s, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and the DFS Group, was chosen by the board. After the announcement on Ullman last month, Castagna reportedly took some time off to decide what she wanted to do next.

Castagna has an escape clause in her contract, permitting her to leave without the usual non-compete restrictions that most retailers impose. The clause expires Sunday.

Castagna’s departure would put Penney’s in a hole, considering she’s been effective at executing strategies and changes dictated by Questrom, including centralizing the buying, new store layouts and merchandise presentations and more aggressive advertising and price promotions. Her leaving could trigger other executive departures.

However, Ullman could very well decide to bring in his own team, with or without Castagna. There’s been some speculation that Ullman might try to recruit Edward J. Brennan, chairman and ceo of DFS Group Ltd. Ullman, who used to run DFS, recruited Brennan to the company in May 1997 and earlier, they worked together at Macy’s, where Brennan was a top men’s merchant and Ullman rose to ceo.

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