The Wall Street Journal reports Apple's VP of Retail Ron Johnson is leaving the company to become J.C. Penny president and, eventually, chief executive officer. Johnson joined Apple in 2000 and greatly contributed to the realization and success of Apple's retail division across the world, becoming the public face for the company when it came down to talk about retail stores and, in the most recent years, the popularity of iOS devices in the Apple Stores. The WSJ says a public announcement hasn't been made yet, but should happen later today.
J.C. Penney Co. is tapping Ron Johnson, head of Apple Inc.'s iconic retail stores, as its new president and eventual chief executive, people familiar with the situation said.
The company is expected to announce Mr. Johnson's appointment later today. Mr. Johnson will become CEO in the next few months, succeeding long-time leader Myron "Mike" Ullman. He joined Apple from Target Corp., where he was vice president of merchandising for stores.
More information about Johnson's career are available from Apple's PR bio:
Ron Johnson joined Apple as senior vice president in January 2000. Reporting directly to the CEO, Johnson leads Apple's retail strategy and is responsible for its overall execution and performance. Under Ron's leadership, Apple has opened over 300 stores to date. Johnson has over 20 years of experience in retail and merchandising as well as a strong track record for delivering consistent year over year growth for billion-dollar companies.
Before Apple, Johnson held various management positions at Target, another US-based retail chain, contributing to the expansion of Target stores playing a key role in marketing and branding for the company. If true, The Wall Street Journal's report seems to suggest Johnson is going to back to his roots to lead a massive retail distribution chain across the United States -- becoming CEO is undoubtedly a big step forward from Senior VP of Retail at Apple.
Update: J.C. Penney has just confirmed the news -- Ron Johnson will become CEO starting November 1, 2011, and invest $50 million in the company:
Myron E. (Mike) Ullman, III, chairman and chief executive officer of J. C. Penney Company, Inc. (NYSE: JCP), today announced that Ron Johnson, an innovative and highly regarded retail executive, has been named the Company's next chief executive officer, succeeding Mr. Ullman in that role. Mr. Johnson will assume the CEO position on Nov. 1, 2011, and report to Mr. Ullman, who will become executive chairman. Mr. Johnson will also join the Company's Board of Directors, effective Aug. 1, 2011.
Mr. Johnson said, "I've always dreamed of leading a major retail company as CEO, and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to help J. C. Penney re-imagine what I believe to be the single greatest opportunity in American retailing today, the Department Store. I have tremendous confidence in J. C. Penney's future and look forward to working with Mike Ullman, the Executive Board and the Company's 150,000 associates to transform the way America shops.
Update #2: In a comment to All Things Digital, Apple says they're "actively recruiting" for Johnson's replacement in retail:
Apple confirmed his departure in a brief comment to AllThingsD. “Ron is excited about this opportunity and we hope it goes well for him,” a spokesperson said. “We’ve got a great retail team in place and are actively recruiting for his replacement.
Below, Apple's popular iPad: Year One video featuring Ron Johnson talking about the iPad's retail success.
An interview with Johnson from a few years ago -- he says to "stay tuned" for an Apple tablet:
Ron Johnson in the Stanford Hospital Corporate Partners Program video: