J.C. Penney Co. put a time frame on its transition to a new chief executive, saying the Apple Inc. retail chief, Ron Johnson, will take full control of the company Feb. 1, when departing CEO Myron "Mike" Ullman will leave the company.
The new succession details, laid out Monday, come after questions were raised about Penney's plans for the handoff, which included leaving an unusually high number of day to day responsibilities under Ullman's control for an indefinite period. Management experts quoted in a Wall Street Journal article laying out the division of labor Friday evening said the arrangement risked confusion in the department store's ranks about who was in charge.
The arrangement came as a surprise to activist investors on Penney's board. Board members William Ackman and Steve Roth, who played a central role in recruiting Johnson to the company, weren't involved in discussions about the division of labor and weren't briefed before the company circulated an organization chart describing the split to Wall Street analysts.
On Monday, Penney said it will limit the transition period to three months, after which Ullman will step down from the company and Johnson will take over in full.
Ullman said in a release that he looked forward to helping with the transition and then stepping aside, "as has been my practice in previous CEO positions." Johnson said in the release he's eager to get started.
Johnson, credited with building Apple's ground-breaking retail business, will join Penney's board Aug. 1 and start as CEO on Nov. 1. Initially, he will be responsible for marketing and merchandise.
Elizabeth Holmes and Joann S. Lublin are reporters for the Wall Street Journal, where this story originally appeared. Write to Elizabeth and Joann.