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Long-distance bosses a problem for troubled store chain J.C. Penney?


By Noel Young, Correspondent

March 23, 2013 | 3 min read

The American department store chain J.C. Penney can't get can't seem to get any good publicity . Fresh from complaints about former Apple exec Ron Johnson's makeover of the company (sales down $13 billion in his first year) comes a new gripe.

Ron Johnson: Deal to stay in California

He has hired at least nine key executives who live thousands of miles from the company's HQ in Texas, says Bloomberg.

J.C. Penney has three jets registered to it and a round trip between Dallas and California, costs more than $40.000, according a big private-jet company.

Johnson himself and vice presidents Ben Fay and Laurie Miller all commute from California. Creative chief Michael Fisher and design executive Nick Wooster fly from New York. Construction executive Bob Laughrea commutes from Boston.

Johnson himself made a deal to stay in California when he took over at J.C. Penney. With school-age children, he and his wife decided it didn’t make sense to “uproot the family given his travel schedule,” a J.C.Penney spokeswoman said.

Howard Gross, MD of retail executive search firm Boyden in New York, said that for a company that’s in turmoil, "you really do have to have the senior leaders showing face time. To have them not be there on a regular basis I think sends a very, very bad message.”

Johnson became J.C. Penney’s CEO in November 2011 after making a big hit with Apple's retail stores.

Three people who worked in the Texas HQ told Bloomberg the acronym, DOPE -- short for “dumb old Penney employees” -- has been used in the office to refer to the company’s longer-standing workers.

J.C. Penney had about 116,000 employees in February, down from 159,000 about a year ago.

Johnson started with a failed attempt to get away from sales and coupons. The company is is now betting his plan to turn most stores into collections of boutiques will bring back customers, said Bloomberg.

Former CEO Allen Questrom, who retired in 2004, said earlier this month that the longer the board waits to fire Johnson , “the worse it’s going to get.” The company said on March 12 that Johnson has no plans to quit or resign.


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