Questrom sizes up JCP experience

PLANO , Texas – Outgoing J.C. Penney Chairman and CEO Allen Questrom offered his perspective on the company during a conference call yesterday with his successor, Myron "Mike" Ullman III, who takes the reins Dec. 1.

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

At the same time, Questrom added, "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 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, "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 and 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.

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