Media Feature: The Beginning of the End for Ron Johnson at JCPenney

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Bloomberg TV has been running a special this morning about the poor turnaround that Ron Johnson has engineered at JCPenney Co. Inc. (NYSE: JCP). Our take is that this is the beginning of the end and is a prelude to Ron Johnson's termination.

Shares have gone from $60 five years ago to under $25 again, and the 52-week range is $19.06 to $43.18. Johnson has been on the job now for just under a year, and what Bloomberg TV is understating is that this turnaround is not working. In short, Ron Johnson's strategy is more than under question.

Johnson has been unable to bring any of the retail magic from his Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) success. There is a growing belief that perhaps Johnson's success was being at the exact right place at the exact right time. Perhaps chimpanzees could have done as well.

Howard Davidowitz, of the retail consulting firm Davidowitz & Associates, said on Bloomberg TV that Ron Johnson will "be a goner" in another nine months if this continues. He noted how Johnson did not even test his price-matching strategy before launching it and then undoing it. Davidowitz said that Johnson needs to seriously slow the pace of change, do some more in-store stores that were a success, and perhaps start offering coupons as the pricing strategy.

Bloomberg also showed that Marathon Asset Management was against the plan at JCPenney, effectively betting against a turnaround plan backed by activist investor Bill Ackman and being run by Ron Johnson.

When we covered the earnings report on Aug. 13, we noted at that time:

Shares (JCP) have fallen nearly 35% in 2012 alone. Meanwhile, shares of competitor Macy's Inc. (NYSE: M) have risen about 15% in the same time, while Target Corp. (NYSE: TGT) shares have risen 22%.

Our own Doug McIntyre even noted back in June:

The trouble the JCPenney board faces is where to turn to find a replacement for Johnson and how badly Wall St. will punish its shares when it brings in a new CEO. But the board has no choice now. Johnson has proved after a very short time that his approach to fixing JCPenney is poison.

The clock is ticking … tick, tock.

JON C. OGG


Filed under: 24/7 Wall St. Wire, Corporate Governance, Management Change, Retail, Turnarounds Tagged: AAPL, JCP, M, TGT
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