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Ullman to Take Reins at Penney

Carole Sloan, Rupert Welch -- Home Textiles Today, November 1, 2004

Plano, Texas — Myron "Mike" Ullman III has been named chairman and CEO of J.C. Penney Co. succeeding Allen Questrom, who announced earlier this year that he would not renew his employment contract when it expires in September 2005.

Questrom is credited with turning around the giant retailer since his arrival in September 2000.

Ullman, who joins Penney Dec. 1 with a wide-ranging and global track record, said that he would take the next few months to get to know the team, the off-mall opportunities, the Internet and the brand. By mid-spring, he said in the conference call after his appointment was announced, "I should have a point of view that will give me a chance to put my initial impressions behind, and start to deal with reality."

Ullman's broad range of retailing experience began in 1982 at Federated Department Stores' former Sanger Harris division, where he rose to executive vice president. He later became managing director of Wharf Holdings in Hong Kong and became executive vice president of R. H. Macy in 1988. He was promoted to CEO in 1992 several months after the company filed for bankruptcy protection.

When Federated, then headed by Questrom, staged an unsolicited bid for Macy's, then under Ullman's direction, Macy's became part of Federated in 1994. Ullman left to become chairman and CEO of the DFS Group of duty free shops around the world. In the mid-'90s, LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton bought DFS Group and Ullman rose through that corporation's ranks to become second in command to chairman Bernard Arnault.

In a conference call last week, Questrom said, "This could not be a better decision. The key is his previous experience and his CEO experience."

At the same time, Questrom said, "I am disappointed that Vanessa Castagna did not get the job. I can't comment on her plans." Castagna is second in command at Penney, serving as chairman and CEO of Penney stores, catalog and Internet.

Commenting on Penney's progress, Questrom said the company would hit its $1 billion target for Internet sales sooner than planned. He also said the off-the-mall store concept "is a better deal than we thought it was. It's a whole new opportunity for 100 to 200 stores" — a figure substantially higher than the 75 to 100 originally projected.

Ullman stressed the importance of continuing to have Penney offer "fashion at a price, and quality is very important," brushing aside thoughts that with his background in luxury merchandise he would take the company upscale. For Penney, he said, "It is a combination of brand and sales promotion. But the content and product must be right."

Branding will continue to play a key role at Penney, Questrom said, "and we've begun branding the Penney name, as well as designers to develop brands that differentiate us." In home, he pointed to Chris Madden and Colin Cowie as "establishing an identity that make people come to Penney."

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