NEW YORK — J.C. Penney Co.’s new chairman and chief executive officer, Myron E. Ullman 3rd, said on Thursday that Wall Street will have to wait until spring for a detailed strategy plan from him as investors backed off Penney’s shares on the first day of trading after he was named to succeed Allen Questrom on Dec. 1.
This story first appeared in the October 29, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Vanessa Castagna, chairman and ceo of Penney’s stores, catalogue and Internet, who was passed over for Questrom’s job, was not on a conference call with Ullman and Questrom. It is believed that she is likely to leave the company. A person knowledgeable about the retailer said Castagna, considered to be the company’s chief merchant, “did not react well” to Ullman’s appointment.
Ullman, 57, said during the conference call that “it’s day two on the job” for him, and that it’s “fair to say that by mid-spring I should have a point of view that will give me a chance to put my initial impressions behind, and start to deal with reality.”
Questrom, using a baseball analogy to describe Penney’s turnaround since he took over in September 2000, said it was “in the seventh inning of a doubleheader.” He said Penney’s, based in Plano, Tex., will continue focusing on growth opportunities such as expanding its Internet business, and that he sees the retailer growing its off-mall business by 200 stores in the next few years. In previous discussions, management said it was looking to add 75 to 100 off-mall stores.
In trading Thursday, the stock closed down 5.4 percent to $35.35. The 52-week high is $41.50, and the low is $22.29.
Regarding the selection of Ullman over Castagna, who could not be reached for comment, Questrom said: “This is obviously a difficult decision that the board has spent a lot of time on, and from a business point of view it couldn’t have been a better decision.’’
Questrom, 64, expressed disappointment that Castagna was not picked, but said in an “era of Sarbanes-Oxley,” when greater demands are being placed on high-level managers, Penney’s board needed someone with strong ceo experience. The Sarbanes-Oxley bill was passed by Congress in 2002 to hold senior executives more accountable for their actions.
Ullman is a former co-chairman and co-ceo of Macy’s as well as the DFS chain of duty-free and retail shops. He also was number two to Bernard Arnault at LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and is considered particularly adept at streamlining, with expertise in finance and operations. Questrom described him as “an outstanding retail executive.”
Ullman said that with an off-mall and Internet strategy, Penney’s is going through an evolution. He said he took the job because of growth opportunities and the prospect of making Penney’s “a star” in the industry.
Deborah Weinswig, equity analyst with Citigroup Smith Barney, said in a research note Wednesday night that “after recovering from our initial shock, we are encouraged by [Penney’s] announcement that [Ullman] will succeed Questrom.”
Emanuel Weintraub, of the consulting firm that bears his name said he thinks Penney “did the right thing” by tapping Ullman.
“Vanessa Castagna has a great future,” Weintraub said. “If Mr. [Edward] Lampert [chairman of Kmart Holdings Inc.] could get her number, now that would be great. Sears would also be a good fit for her.”
One source told WWD Castagna had looked at a job at Kohl’s. It was unclear if that was still on the table.
Questrom’s five-year contract was to expire in September 2005.