JC Penney CEO: Working hard or hardly working?

A news report says Johnson lives it up at the Ritz-Carlton and takes long weekends while the retailer flounders.

By Jonathan Berr Feb 11, 2013 5:31PM
File photo of Ron Johnson, CEO of JC Penney, in Dallas on Sept. 10, 2012 ( Brandon Wade/Invision for JCPenny /AP Images)
 When J.C. Penney (JCP) hired Ron Johnson as its CEO in 2011, expectations were high that some of his success as head of Apple's (AAPL) retail stores would spread to the floundering retail chain.

But now, as his company faces increasing criticism, Johnson's work ethic has come into question.

According to The New York Post, Johnson rarely works a full week at the company's Plano, Texas, headquarters. When he does travel there from his home in Palo Alto, Calif., Johnson goes in style in the corporate jet. He also stays at the swanky Ritz-Carlton hotel in Dallas, which offers suites for $3,000 to $5,000 per night.   

J.C. Penney, at least for now, stands by its CEO.

"The insinuation that the company’s work ethic has declined since Ron assumed leadership is completely without merit and is in sharp contrast to the overwhelming dedication our team members demonstrate every day," a spokeswoman said in an emailed statement to MSN. She did not directly address claims about Johnson's workdays or hotel accommodations.


To be sure, a four-day work week is nothing new, particularly as companies allow employees more flexible schedules. And top executives have been known to maintain homes far from a company's headquarters, commuting by corporate jet. In theory, there is nothing wrong with companies putting bosses up in nice hotels. 


But the Post report is gaining attention because it comes at a time of sharp criticism for Johnson and the changes he's trying to put in place at Penney -- changes that, for the most part, don't seem to be working.


The company is losing cash at a rapid pace; its third-quarter earnings report shows $525 million in cash, down from $1.1 billion a year earlier. The stock price has fallen more than 50% in the last year. Employees at the Texas headquarters are worried about a large layoff later this week.


Wall Street investors are probably not pleased to learn that Johnson doesn't live in the same time zone as the company after being on the job for more than a year. The two previous CEOs lived in Dallas and "consistently worked long hours at the office," the Post reports. Moreover, the company had a dismal holiday season and probably will continue struggling for a while.

Corporate culture is set at the top, and now hundreds of J.C. Penney workers are showing up late and leaving early, according to the Post. About 950 workers were let go in two layoffs announced last year. Morale, not surprisingly, is low.

"Why break your neck for somebody who doesn’t appreciate it?" one former employee who remained anonymous told the Post. Shares of J.C. Penney rose 25 cents, a bit more than 1%, to close at $19.53 Monday.   

--Jonathan Berr does not own shares of the listed stocks. Follow him on Twitter @jdberr
.

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72Comments
Feb 11, 2013 6:33PM
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Well of course he's livin' it up. Where else but America can execs be rewarded for running companies into the ground. The average laborer would be fired.

SSSHHHHIIIITTTTTT,    America....What a country.

Feb 11, 2013 6:57PM
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Not a surprise to me. Sears exec bought a $40 million mansion off the FL coast...does he care that he is also running Sears/Kmart into the ground? Nope. He's just as guilty as this CEO of JCP.
Feb 11, 2013 7:04PM
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I have done several turnarounds in my career and can say that you do set the culture at the top. If a boat is springing a leak you be the first to bail the water and plug the hole. I think what we are seeing is a case of a major disconnect. The Apple culture has permeated Plano's J.C. Penney. I always thought it a mistake not to find a retail minded executive and not an exec that has had it easy under the Apple wealth and influence.

 

I hate to see the establishment fail, but I fear it will and there is no Macy's to come buying it.

 

 

Feb 11, 2013 8:11PM
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This guy is an idiot.  He has no talent and Steve Jobs made Apple what it was, not this clown.  Regardless if they fire him or not, he's going to make millions for doing nothing.  There should be laws that put fools like this out on the street without the millions of dollars.  He's just part of the good ol boy network.
Feb 11, 2013 7:51PM
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JC Penny is on it's way to shuttering their doors forever-CEO's really don't care because of the ridiculous salaried they make(and spend). He took this company over back in 2011 and is not the sharpest tool in the shed if he can't see that the store is just deteriorating..Catalog pickups are NOW done at any register (AND YOU HAVE TO STAND IN LINE TO GET YOUR ORDER), employees are scarce throughout the store, and it looks like there is less merchandise on the racks as the months drag on. With his salary, I guess he really doesn't care.

Feb 11, 2013 8:15PM
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"Moreover, the company had a dismal holiday season and probably will continue struggling for a while." 

Really?! How's that for an understatement?  Mr. Ron "Work a Day, Take a Week Off" Johnson is just holding on for the largest bonus possible - which he will get in spite of his disgraceful performance.  He'll jump ship soon.  Apparently he is accountable to NO ONE.  My local JCP, formerly known as J C Penney, is a ghost town.  The few clerks still employed there dress like they are on their way to a day of shopping at Walmart.  You'd think a store that sells clothing would have some kind of dress code.  Those faded jeans and peek-a-boo tops speak volumes on the morale of the the employees.  They don't give a d*** now either!  Good work Mr. Johnson.  If you wanted to ruin

J C Penney, you have succeeded.  Shame on you and shame on the board of directors who have let you continue your disgraceful management of a company that used to be an icon for the middle class shopper.  Actually, you are a true reflection of the corporate apathy and greed that seem rampant now.  "Take the money and run," seems to work for most CEO's these days.  Way to go Ron, way to go... now, just please go.

Feb 11, 2013 7:31PM
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HARD WORK AND NO PERKS WOULD SAVE A LOT OF COMPANIES BUT WE ARE IN AMERICA AND PEOPLE ARE GREEDY, GIMMIE, GIMMIE IS ALL THEY KNOW," PERKS ARE US"  EVEN THO WE ARE GOING BROKE, GREED SETS IN WITH SOME C.E.O.s...MANY COMPANIES HAVE GONE THIS WAY OR BANKRUPTCY....
Feb 11, 2013 7:46PM
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And as usual the rich get richer !!!!
Feb 11, 2013 7:34PM
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MOST OF THE SAVIORS ARE IN IT FOR THE MONBEY AND COULD CARE LESS WHAT HAPPENS TO THE COMPANY THEY WENT IN TO SAVE OR HELP, THEY HAVE NO INVESTMENT SO WHO CARES, ILL GET MY MONEY..
Feb 11, 2013 9:37PM
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Typical CEO who has made his money and does not care about the company.

Feb 11, 2013 11:17PM
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30 years ago the top guy made 50x the low guy in a company and now it`s like 1000x

the little guy.The shareholders are suppose to be the checks and balances.They`re

not doing that.CEO`s get $100 million buyouts for being losers.

Feb 11, 2013 8:31PM
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Setting up Apple retail stores does not qualify you to run a retail company like JC Penney. The demand for Apple products during his tenure had very little to do with his set-up of the stores and more to do with Steve Jobs, the cutting edge technology and Apple's marketing. His hubris and over-estimation of his own abilities was evident when he got rid of sales at Penney's--the kiss of death for a retail clothing  outlet competing with stores likeTarget, Wal-mart, Macy's etc. who have weekly sales. But then this is the guy who's big claim to fame is coming up with the *Genius Bar* at Apple stores. Really? Kids working at the mall are now geniuses? No wonder shopping at Apple is painful these days.
Feb 11, 2013 11:34PM
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Nothing new here.  These guys move around from company to company making outragious salaries and perks.  Sometimes they luck our a get a turnaround, mostly they just firnish driving the stake into the heart of these floundering companies and then bail out with golden parachutes before the final collapse, which they will then blame on anything but their mismanagement.  As for executive salraries, what can one say, they are all super over paid, no one is worth a million dollars or more a year and that includes those high paid professional athletes that get those mullti millions dollar contracts and drive the price of a ticket to a game to 75 dollars for cheapest seats.
Feb 11, 2013 8:21PM
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I will not be in there until that garbage ceo is out.

Feb 11, 2013 8:57PM
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A few quotes on the subject from Mark Twain.  As far as I'm concerned, America's greatest son. 

 

"Some men worship rank, some worship heroes, some worship God, and over these ideas they dispute–but they all worship money."

 

"Virtue has never been as respectable as money."

 

"What is the chief end of man?--to get rich.

In what way?--dishonestly if we can; honestly if we must."

Feb 11, 2013 9:02PM
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is anybody REALLY surprised!  not me. it's sad for the store employees, that i'm sure, will all be out of jobs soon.
Feb 11, 2013 9:32PM
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Received recently a 10 dollar off coupon in the mail to JCP - after Many months of no coupons at all.

Went to the store to look, but could not find Anything worth buying and left without purchase. The store has nothing to offer now but trash. I looked at the socks also and noted that they were irregulars / seconds. Coupons for seconds at full price is just wrong. JCP is so done, even firing RJ and ED I doubt would help at this point.

Feb 12, 2013 12:32AM
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Wouldn't you like to just BITCH slap the look right off his face? It's as though he's saying.... Hey--- Nothing going wrong here. Too bad for all the hard working JCP employees but your time appears near the end.
Feb 11, 2013 8:29PM
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Penney's.......beginning to live up to its name.
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