JC Penney Co. (NYSE:JCP) stocks are exploding today, up nearly 20% (!) on news that the company has tapped Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) retail chief Ron Johnson to be its next CEO. Johnson is slated to take over the department store operator, which runs over 1,100 US stores, on Nov. 1st, and investors are clearly happy with the move.
In his ten years working under Steve Jobs at Apple, Johnson effectively created a retail market for the company’s products. In 2001 he oversaw the openings of the first Apple Stores in California and Virginia, and has since transformed the tech company’s once non-existent retail business into a highly profitable operation. Apple now has over 300 retail stores that generated revenues last year of $3.19 billion, seeing a 90% growth since 2009. Johnson was initially poached from an executive position at Target (NYSE:TGT), so his familiarity with retail operations is not limited to tech products.
The move for Penney is being hailed as a big win for the company by investors and expert analysts alike, according to Brian Marshall, an analyst with Gleacher & Co., “They are very lucky. It’s a big win for them. He [Johnson] wanted another challenge to fix something and he saw it at J.C. Penney.”
While the move is momentous for J.C. Penney, Apple’s retail prospects may be in question as it will be hard pressed to find a comparable replacement for Ron Johnson. Executive concerns loom large at Apple, with Steve Jobs ailing health a ticking time bomb at the CEO position, and recent departure of the company’s Senior V.P of Software Development, Bertrand Serlet, there are many holes for the tech-leader to fill.
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