One of the secrets to Apple’s success has been the strong executive team Steve Jobs assembled upon returning to Apple and subsequently assuming the CEO position. One of those executives was Ron Johnson, a retail vet from Target who helped spearhead Apple’s retail initiative in the face of overwhelming odds and detractors.
Today, Apple boasts hundreds of retail stores around the globe and boasts one of the most profitable retail operations in the world – which is why news that Johnson was leaving to Apple to become the CEO of JC Penny caused such a stir.
The Wall Street Journal reports:
The departure is a surprising loss to Apple, which has put heavy emphasis on its stores and has been expanding aggressively internationally. Moreover, Apple has been leaning heavily on all of its top managers with Chief Executive Steve Jobs on a medical leave.
Mr. Johnson, 52 years old, will take over at Penney Nov. 1, succeeding Myron “Mike” Ullman, 64, who has been chief executive for more than six years and will stay on as executive chairman.
Highlighting the esteem in which Johnson is held, news of his impending arrival to JC Penny resulted in the stock shooting up by 17.5%. Interestingly enough, JC Penny reportedly tried to recruit Johnson a few years ago, only to be rebuffed by Johnson who was still preoccupied with efforts to help Apple roll out its ever expanding retail empire.
Explaining the impetus behind his departure, Johnson said he wanted a new challenge and that he was leaving Apple on a high note. “The department store is kind of king of the hill in most countries I go to,” Mr. Johnson said. “They should be the leader, and that’s what we want to achieve at J.C. Penney.”
And putting his money where his mouth is, Johnson will purchase upwards of $50 million worth of JC Penney stock that won’t vest until 2017. Those options are priced at $29.92 a share, so we’ll wait and see how JC Penney’s stock performs going forward.
In the interim, Johnson won’t be starving. He’ll still earn an annual $1.5 million salary and has earned over $300 million during his stint at Apple.