Mike Ullman

Joe Keenan is the executive editor of Total Retail. Joe has more than 10 years experience covering the retail industry, and enjoys profiling innovative companies and people in the space.

Mike Ullman, the present CEO of J.C. Penney, will relinquish that post at the end of June 2015. He will stay on as non-executive chairman for a year. Marvin Ellison, president and chief executive-in waiting, will succeed Mr. Ullman in that position. While I haven't yet met with Ullman's successor, I have heard and read good things about him and sense that he motivates associates to do their best. He will certainly need that leadership skill. Ellison will have his hands full.

J.C. Penney's chief marketing officer Deb Berman has resigned. She joined Plano, Texas-based Penney in August 2013 from Kraft Foods Group where she was vice president of marketing strategy and engagement. Penney said in a statement Tuesday that Berman's departure was her decision. "J.C. Penney is grateful for her service, and we wish her well in all future endeavors," the company said. Berman was part of CEO Mike Ullman's rebuilding team after the company lost a lot of high-level talent during former CEO Ron Johnson's attempt to remake the department store in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

J.C. Penney says it's back in the business of giving its solidly middle-income customers what they want. The 112-year-old department store chain has switched itself off from survival mode and put the spotlight back on growth. The fixes for a failed transformation, including a mended balance sheet, were put in place over the last 18 months under CEO Mike Ullman. Now new president and CEO-designee Marvin Ellison will start work at the retailer's Plano, Texas headquarters Nov. 1, and a transition plan is ready to implement. 

Despite having a pulse this year after a disastrous 2013, J.C. Penney can't secure a permanent CEO to take the reins from current leader Mike Ullman. According to a Wall Street Journal report, Mindy Grossman, CEO of Home Shopping Network and a highly regarded retail industry executive, turned down the chance to become J.C. Penney's next chief some two months ago. That means Grossman turned down the gig around the time of J.C. Penney's May 15 first-quarter earnings report, in which it delivered both top- and bottom-line results that were ahead of Wall Street expectations.

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