Plano, Texas -- According to multiple reports on Thursday, J.C. Penney will replace Myron “Mike” Ullman as CEO, and the search pace is being pressured by top investor Bill Ackman.
Penney, which has not commented on the reports, is being pushed to name a new CEO in 30 to 45 days, revealed in a letter Ackman sent to the retailer’s board of directors. Ackman also told board members that former Penney CEO Allen Questrom would return as chairman if the retailer chose a new CEO he liked.
"I am very concerned about the future of J.C. Penney," Ackman wrote in the letter. Only recently has Penney selected a search firm, although Ackman’s letter indicated he has been urging the search process to begin since April. Ackman is pushing for an experienced CEO to take the helm of the embattled chain. "We need a CEO with extensive, ideally department-store retail experience," Ackman said in his letter.
Ullman was brought back to Penney in April to try and resurrect the company after Ron Johnson’s much-publicized failure to turn the retailer around. Ullman's return was deemed a temporary one, but some insiders have expressed surprise at how quickly Ackman wants him replaced. "A new CEO would be disruptive because that would bring more change," Walter Loeb, a veteran retail analyst, told Reuters. A Penney spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal that the CEO search is nothing more than “market rumor and speculation.”
Penney shares earlier this week hit their lowest levels since 2001. Some analysts expect Penney to report that same-store sales fell as much as double digits when it releases quarterly results on Aug. 20.