The War Over J.C. Penney
Penney himself was broken by the 1929 stock market crash, according to his Wikipedia biography, but he remained active after losing control of the company, reportedly even teaching a young trainee named Sam Walton on how to wrap packages with a minimum amount of ribbon in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1946.
Instead of pushing that image of frugality, Ron Johnson, the man chosen for the CEO's chair by hedge fund manager Bill Ackman at the end of 2011, tried to re-make it as a high-end, high tech "experience." He wanted to end sales, to turn the stores into a series of branded shops, and to have cashiers walk around the stores carrying iPads for instant check-out.
He broke the company instead. Sales fell by nearly one-third, year over year, and $1 in every 10 went to losses.
Today, J.C. Penney
That Experian story may have been something of a head fake. It was talking only about online sales, not in-store sales. But you have to also wonder about the origins of the CIT report, which seemed aimed at tanking the stock. To an extent, this is also about Ackman of Pershing Square Capital Management, who is fighting a rear-guard action on behalf of his Herbalife
Somewhat lost amid all this is Mike Ullman, the former JCPenney CEO who was rehired in April to try and clean up the mess Johnson left behind. Ullman quickly brought back the old Penney mainstays, like sales and coupons, and went right to work on the financing problem.