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JC Penney CEO Jill Soltau to leave retailer after it emerged from bankruptcy with new owners

Signage is aired outside a JC Penney Co. store in Chicago, Illinois.

Christopher Dilts | Bloomberg | Getty Images

J.C. Penney CEO Jill Soltau, who was tapped to wind around the struggling department store, will leave the company Thursday.

The company’s new owners, Simon Property League and Brookfield Asset Management, said Wednesday that they’re looking for a new leader “who is focused on modern retail, the consumer face, and the goal of creating a sustainable and enduring JCPenney.”

The Plano, Texas-based retailer filed for bankruptcy in May. It was bought by the two U.S. mall owners in the fail and emerged earlier this month. It joined a growing list of retailers’ pushed to the brink by the coronavirus pandemic. Yet the legacy retailer’s discomforts began before the global health crisis. Its sales have fallen annually since 2016. At the time when it systematized for bankruptcy, its roughly 860-store footprint was less than a quarter of its store base in 2001.

About two years ago, the plc hired Soltau to spearhead its turnaround effort after its former CEO Marvin Ellison left to lead Lowe’s. She in days of old served as CEO of fabric and craft retailer, Joann Stores. She also worked for Sears, Kohl’s and Shopko Stores. At the pass, news of her hire sent shares soaring as investors had hope she would bring fresh ideas and drive swelling at the department store.

This year, however, the company’s efforts were set back as its stores temporarily shuttered during the pandemic and clouted its already stretched finances.

Simon and Brookfield have chosen Simon’s Chief Investment Officer Stanley Shashoua to do duty as as interim CEO, according to a news release. They have launched an executive search with strategic partner Accurate Brands Group. The licensing firm owns stakes of other retailers that have emerged from bankruptcy, containing Brooks Brothers and Forever 21.

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