In Oct. 2018, J.C. Penney, then headquartered in Plano, hired former Jo-Ann Fabrics CEO Jill Soltau to salvage the struggling retail giant as its chief executive. On Wednesday, she abruptly exited her post following months of economic turmoil fanned by bankruptcy proceedings amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a result, J.C. Penney’s owners, Simon Property Group and Brookfield Asset Management, are searching for a new successor to help the company navigate the ongoing turmoil. Until then, Simon’s chief investment officer Stanley Shashoua will be acting as interim CEO effective Jan. 1.
“The search will seek to identify a leader that is focused on modern retail, the consumer experience, and the goal of creating a sustainable and enduring J.C. Penney,” Simon and Brookfield said in a joint press release. “With a successful track record of turning around retailers and brands and restoring them to profitability, J.C. Penney’s new ownership group will establish a temporary office of the CEO to include key members of J.C. Penney’s current leadership team.”
These “key members” have not been identified.
This news comes two weeks following a report that the company would be closing 15 more stores in addition to the 150 locations that were already shuttered at the start of the coronavirus lockdown. J.C. Penney’s financial woes were so cumbersome, in fact, that it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in May and vacated its 1.2 million square foot headquarters on Legacy Drive, where it operated from 1992 to early December.
To stay afloat, the department store chain sold the headquarters to Silos Harvesting Partners in December 2016 for $353 million and downsized operational space by 700,000 square feet. Real estate developer Sam Ware, one of the partners of Silos Harvesting, told Plano Star Courier in December that J.C. Penney’s owners vacated the building and rejected the lease “[with] a remaining obligation of over $350 [million] in rent and [operating expenses].”
He then called COVID-19’s impact on the purchase “unthinkable” and “insurmountable.”