Ron Johnson, the Apple stores genius who took over as boss at venerable US stores chain JC Penney, is out after 17 months as CEO .
Johnson, 54, will be replaced by his predecessor, 66-year-old Myron "Mike" Ullman, effective immediately, a JCP spokeswoman has confirmed . Ullman will also join the the board .
Bloomberg reported that JCP shares soared 13 percent on news that Johnson was out, then fell 6.7 percent to $14.80 when it was learned who his replacement was.
The New York Times said it was " a curious move to go back to Mr. Ullman. Most of the senior employees that he had assembled at Penney either left or were dismissed by Mr. Johnson. "
It was dissatisfaction with where Ullman, - seven years in the job - was taking JCP that led the company to look for another leader in the first place, said the NYT.
Thomas Engibous, chairman of the board , said in a statement quoted by AdAge, "We are fortunate to have someone with Mike's proven experience and leadership abilities to take the reins at the company at this important time.
"He is well-positioned to quickly analyze the situation JC Penney faces and take steps to improve the company's performance."
Ullman, who left the company in late 2011, said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that it was premature to discuss plans for Penney and which of Mr. Johnson’s efforts he would continue.
“Some things are working well, others maybe not, but I deserve a chance to be on the ground,” he said. “Nobody ever wins by going back in retail because the customers’ expectations change all the time.”
Johnson's big plan for JC Penney was to do away with sales and special offers and replace these with "fair and square" pricing. Customers didn't buy it - and sales fell 25 per cent . By the time Johnson began to reverse course, bringing back coupons, it was too late .
Johnson was on a base salary of $1.5 million and was to get an annual target bonus equal to 125% of his pay.
Ullman faces several tough choices, said Bloomberg. He’ll have to decide whether to continue Johnson’s strategy of turning the chain into a collection of boutiques, including Martha Stewart, or return to a more traditional department store . Ullman will also have to consider whether to sell the company or break it up .
BACK TO APPLE? Mashable points out that Johnson's former employer Apple has struggled to replace him. John Browett, of UK retail chain Dixons, was hired - but pushed out in October — nine months after starting . The obvious question, says Mashable: Will Apple choose to bring Johnson back into the company.?