J.C. Penney Co. Inc.’s marketing team has experienced a string of departures, among them its top official, Mike Boylson, executive vice president and chief marketing officer.

This story first appeared in the July 18, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Boylson’s exit has raised speculation that incoming chief executive officer Ron Johnson has already begun cleaning house at Penney’s. Johnson is expected to bring a lot of change to the business, just as he did at Apple, where as senior vice president of retail he orchestrated the brand’s fast-paced, innovative and highly productive retail strategy from its inception in 2001 to more than 300 stores currently in the U.S. and abroad.

Boylson left Penney’s at the beginning of July, though Penney’s did not announce his departure despite his stature and long history there. Boylson joined the retailer as a management trainee in 1978, rose up the ranks to store manager, district manager, vice president and director of marketing planning and promotions, and finally executive vice president in April 2003. He oversaw a huge, high-profile marketing program with an annual advertising budget estimated at around $1 billion.

Two other marketing executive also recently left Penney’s: Nick Bomersbach, vice president of marketing for jcpenney.com and a 10-year veteran of Penney’s, and Christine Laczai, director of digital marketing who has been with Penney’s for two years and previously worked with VF Corp.

In confirming Boylson’s departure Friday, Penney’s said it has begun a search for Boylson’s successor. “Mike Boylson informed J.C. Penney in early June of his intention to retire on July 1,” a Penney’s spokeswoman said. It’s expected that Penney’s will hold off on filling the other vacancies until a new executive vice president of marketing is determined. Bill Gentner, Penney’s senior vice president of marketing planning and promotions, is acting as interim chief marketing officer.

Johnson joins Penney’s board on Aug. 1. and becomes ceo in November but has already been getting his feet wet. He accompanied Penney’s current ceo and chairman, Myron E. “Mike” Ullman 3rd, to Hong Kong for the chain’s annual supplier summit, where key suppliers learn about the state of Penney’s business and long-range plans.

In addition to making organizational changes, Johnson is expected to drive Penney’s Web presence, introduce new products and get the Penney’s team to think differently. Penney’s close to $18 billion in sales last year is still under prerecession volumes, but the company has the potential for growth and for elevating its image to attract younger customers. Johnson was lured to Penney’s by the prospect of reinventing another slice of retail, just as he did with the technology sector, and by the opportunity to be the top gun at a multi-billion dollar corporation.

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