Ron Johnson’s troubled tenure as chief executive officer of J.C. Penney Co. Inc. is over and his predecessor Mike E. “Myron” Ullman 3rd is returning to the chain as ceo.

Johnson joined Penney’s in November 2011 after a successful run as head of Apple Inc.’s groundbreaking retail business. Hailed at first as savior of the chain, Johnson steered a controversial course at Penney’s, eliminating coupons last year and alienating customers, driving sales down 24.8 percent. The retailer lost $985 million last year as Johnson tried to reinvent the chain as a collection of specialty concepts.

Activist investor William Ackman, Penney’s largest shareholder, installed Johnson as ceo and gave him free reign to reinvent the firm.


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Ackman’s was one of Johnson’s loudest cheerleaders, but his support publicly began to wane last week when he said that the execution of the changes at Penney’s had been “something very close to a disaster.”

One of Johnson’s first acts as ceo was to cut a deal to bring Martha Stewart-branded home goods to Penney’s. But Macy’s Inc., which already had a deal with the home goods brand, disputed the arrangement, which is now the subject of a trial in New York State court.

Shares of the company shot up 5.7 percent to $16.78 in afterhours trading today as word of Johnson’s departure leaked out.

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