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JCPenney CEO Jill Soltau Out, Department Store’s New Owners Launch Search for Replacement

Under its new owners, previously beleaguered retailer J. C. Penney Company Inc. will appoint a new CEO.

JCPenney’s post-bankruptcy ownership group, consisting of Simon Property Group and Brookfield Asset Management, along with strategic partner Authentic Brands Group announced today that they have started their search for a chief executive officer to replace Jill Soltau, who will be exiting the company, effective Dec. 31, 2020.

The search is intended to “identify a leader that is focused on modern retail, the consumer experience, and the goal of creating a sustainable and enduring JCPenney,” the group said in a statement. In the interim, it has established a temporary office of the CEO to include “key members of JCPenney’s current leadership team.” Stanley Shashoua, Simon Property Group’s chief investment officer, will be appointed interim CEO effective Jan. 1, 2021.

After several years of struggling amid declining sales and waning relevance, JCPenney filed for Chapter 11 protection in May as pressures stemming from the coronavirus pandemic amplified its existing challenges. Since taking the department store’s helm two years ago, Soltau had tried several strategies to revive the retail chain, including shuttering some underperforming stores and hiring new talent. JCPenney also hired debt restructuring advisers as part of a turnaround plan and experimented with new strategies, including dipping its toes into the outdoor market, partnering with consignment giants and launching curbside pickup. However, it continued to struggle with plummeting sales and rising digital competition.

The retailer’s sale to mall giants Simon and Brookfield was approved by a judge in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas in November. As part of the deal, the commercial real estate behemoths acquired JCPenney’s retail and operating assets through a combination of cash and new term loan debt.

JCPenney exited Chapter 11 early this month.

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