Marv Ellison, who helped get JCPenney back on its feet during his four-year stint in the corner office, has left his chairman/CEO post for the top spot at Lowe’s.
During his tenure at the department store chain, Ellison helped rebuild traffic and sales following an ill-fated attempt by his predecessor, former Apple Stores head and chief Target merchant Ron Johnson, to reposition Penney as a more upscale shopping destination.
Ellison reconnected the retailer with its core customer base, closed underperforming stores, retired $1.4 billion in debt, and tapped new sales opportunities in major appliances and home services.
But during his last full quarter at the helm, ended May 5, sales fell 4.3 percent, comps were flat and net loss, though reduced, stood at $78 million, prompting some analysts to interpret Ellison’s sudden career move as a red flag for Penney and the department store channel as a whole.
In his new role, succeeding longtime Lowe’s veteran Robert Niblock as president/CEO, Ellison will leverage his 12-plus years at No. 1 rival The Home Depot, where he last served as U.S. stores executive VP.
Niblock, who previously announced his intention to retire, will hand over his chairman seat to board director Rick Dreiling, while Ellison’s chairman post at Penney will be filled by director Ron Tysoe.
Penney has also formed a four-person CEO committee, comprised of its chief financial officer, chief customer officer, chief information officer and chief digital officer, to run the company until a successor is named.
Ellison formally leaves Penney on June 1 and joins Lowe’s on July 2.