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Newsmaker of the Year: The Candidates

Here, the names that dominated the headlines in 2013. The winner, selected by WWD editors, will be published Dec. 16.

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Myron Ullman

Photo By Courtesy Photo

MYRON “MIKE” ULLMAN 3RD

TITLE:
Chief executive officer

COMPANY: J.C. Penney Co. Inc.

NEWS THIS YEAR: In a strange twist of fate, Myron “Mike” Ullman 3rd returned to Penney’s last April as chief executive officer after being removed from the job in 2011 and replaced by Ron Johnson, whose visionary yet ill-conceived reinvention strategy put Penney’s on the verge of collapse.

Amid huge losses and sales declines, Penney’s future remains uncertain. But Ullman is considered among the smartest, most capable and competitive executives in retailing, cool-headed and analytical with a impressive résumé including being a former Macy’s ceo, and various top jobs at LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and its DFS Group subsidiary.

At Penney’s, he’s been moving rapidly to undo the damage by restoring much of what Johnson discarded, like coupons, price promoting and core private brands such as St. John’s Bay and Ambrielle, and even bringing back the old logo. Upon his return to the Plano, Tex.-based department store chain, Ullman quickly drew up a laundry list of 30 things that needed fixing. In his progress report 200 days into his second stint, he said two-thirds of the things on the list have been fixed. Shoring up the financing and the confidence of the vendor and financial community, while wooing back customers who had abandoned Penney’s for other stores, has topped the agenda. Signs of improvement are already visible, with sales trends improving.

Ullman has acknowledged that not everything that Johnson developed was bad for the business. Investments in certain new shops like Joe Fresh, and improvements in the store environment for visual clarity and ambience, as well as some service enhancements, are being perpetuated, according to Ullman.

DAVID MOIN


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