WSJ: HSN’s Mindy Grossman turns down J.C. Penney CEO offer

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Home Shopping Network’s Mindy Grossman has turned down an offer to become the next chief executive of J.C. Penney, to succeed Myron “Mike” Ullman, who has been in the job for more than a year.

The Wall Street Journal reports that directors are left with a short list of other finalists, but an appointment is not imminent, according to people close to the situation.

The search for a new Penney leader began a year ago, when then-director William Ackman, a large Penney shareholder and investor, pushed the board to replace Mr. Ullman shortly after he was temporarily reinstalled.

Mr. Ullman was brought back after a devastating 17 months under Ron Johnson, a former Apple Inc. executive, whose efforts to revitalize the chain by removing discounts and in-house brands brought a massive 25 percent drop in sales and $1 billion loss in his first year on the job.

Subsequently, Ackman left the board and sold his share in Penney’s. Ullman has been acting CEO for more than a year.

Penney’s enormous challenges as it tries to regain market share have limited the pool of experienced candidates as several current retail CEOs have been approached. As with a number of other major retailers, Penney faces weakening store traffic and increasing online competition.

Complicating the search are several other retailers also searching for CEOs such as Target Corp. Dollar General Corp. and American Eagle Outfitters.

Grossman had moved to the top of the list, but discussions broke down about two months ago after neither side could agree on terms. No explanation was given for the impasse.

A protracted search, coupled with Penney’s ongoing operational difficulties, have had an effect on the retailer’s shares, which have dropped 50 percent of their value in the past 12 months.

Grossman, a rising star in the retailing industry, is a former Nike executive who has been at the helm of HSN since 2006. In early 2012, Avon Products approached her for its CEO, but the company hired former Johnson & Johnson executive Sherilyn S. McCoy.

Grossman is credited for providing Home Shopping Network a more upscale image, and giving HSN and the Cornerstone home and lifestyle brand a larger digital presence. On the other hand, her current role does not entail physical retail stores. Operations of brick-and-mortar stores will be an essential skill for the for the next Penney CEO, which has more than 1,000 outlets.

As of the end of Penney’s first quarter, sales persisted at $1.1 billion below where they were at the same point in 2011, before Johnson took the helm. Losses in the most recent quarter widened to $352 million from the previous year.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.