Penney Hires Allen Questrom

New ceo expected to breathe life back into the chain
Posted July 28, 2000

J.C. Penney named Allen Questrom, former ceo of Cincinnati-based Federated Department Stores, new chair and ceo today. The current chair and ceo of Barneys Inc., New York, Questrom has a history of leading hurting retailers back to the top. He will replace James Oesterreicher, who resigned in May, on September 15. However, Questrom will continue as chair of Barneys for about a year.

At first blush, Questrom may seem an odd choice for this mid-market retailer. His resume, after all, includes Neiman Marcus, Federated and Barneys. But that resume also includes tough challenges, such as pulling Federated out of bankruptcy in 1992 and guiding the retailer to become the largest department store chain in the U.S. Last year, Questrom also salvaged a Barneys that had been trying for several years to recover from bankruptcy. But, J.C. Penney is a whole new ballgame.

Recently, the venerable chain has been closing its least-profitable stores and has received criticism for its stores'messy appearance and slow distribution of new merchandise. The company has lost ground to more lively competitors like Kohl's, Old Navy and Target. But the retailer's misfortune appears to motivate Questrom.

He will leave Barneys, the upscale chain of only eight stores, to undertake 1,100 struggling, middle-range stores. Apparently, Questrom enjoys the challenge, explaining publicly that bringing J.C. Penney back up is a more interesting quest than Barneys, because of the company's size.