Meanwhile, Nectar Sleep expands to the U.K., IBM and Groupon reach an agreement and other news from School Specialty and Greylock.

J.C. Penney Co., No. 31 in the Internet Retailer 2018 Top 1000, has tapped Jill Soltau as its CEO, effective Oct. 15. The role was vacated by Marvin Ellison in May when he left to take over as CEO of home improvement retailer Lowe’s Cos. (No. 21).

The announcement removes some of the uncertainty from the company, but Soltau now faces a business that has struggled to correct inventory issues and whose latest quarterly report left analysts fuming. In August, J.C. Penney posted comparable-store sales for the second quarter that were close to flat and forecast a much wider loss for the current year. The results prompted one analyst to label the shares as “worthless,” while another suggested the chain was in “no man’s land.”

Soltau had been CEO of fabric and crafts retailer Joann (No. 363) since 2015. While running Joann, Soltau took issue with the Trump administration’s tariffs on Chinese goods. The company dubbed the tariffs a “made-in-America tax” and Soltau even testified before the administration on the duties. Joann directly asked its millions of customers to oppose the president’s trade policies and warned shoppers that the tariffs will mean higher prices.

Soltau also spent eight years at retail chain Shopko, most recently as president, and held several senior-level positions in merchandising, planning and private brand management at Sears Holdings Corp. (No. 24) and Kohl’s Corp. (No. 18).

“Jill stood out from the start among an incredibly strong slate of candidates,” said J.C. Penney board director Paul J. Brown, who chaired the search committee. “We wanted someone with rich apparel and merchandising experience and found Jill to be an ideal fit.”


Although J.C. Penney gained a CEO, the retailer lost its chief financial officer Jeffrey Davis, who resigned in late September to take a new job after working at the retailer since July 2017. Jerry Murray, senior vice president of finance, take over the role on an interim basis.

In other e-commerce news:

  • Mattress e-retailer Nectar Sleep (No. 654 in the Top 1000) is expanding into the United Kingdom. Launched in 2016, the retailer is on a positive growth path, selling 1,000 mattresses per day in the U.S. and is expected to make $315 million in revenue this year, the retailer says. Nectar Sleep made an Internet Retailer-estimated $50 million in web sales in 2017, according to “With a business model that challenges competitors in this space and through access to top talent, we see the UK as the best place to expand our international operations,” says Angela Crouch, managing director at Nectar Sleep.
  • School supplies retailer School Specialty Inc. (No. 302) appointed Stacey Rubin as its senior vice president of marketing. Prior to School Specialty, Rubin worked as senior vice president of account and strategy for marketing company Catapult Marketing for more than seven years and vice president of marketing for publishing company Tribune Company for nearly two years.
  • Former Google executive Sridhar Ramaswamy has joined venture capital firm Greylock as its newest venture partner. Ramaswamy will focus on working with and investing in companies that leverage technologies such as AI, machine learning and analytics. Since 2003, Ramaswamy worked as senior vice president of advertising and commerce Google, where he oversaw Google’s advertising and commerce products, including search, display and video advertising.
  • International Business Machines Corp. and Groupon Inc. have settled all patent lawsuits between the two companies for approximately $57 million, which will be paid to IBM, and a long-term patent cross-license agreement between the companies. As part of the settlement, IBM will consider making certain Groupon products and exclusives available to its employee base as part of its corporate benefits offer. “The license we have acquired to IBM’s patent portfolio will enable Groupon (No. 41) to continue to build amazing products for consumers and small businesses around the world. We look forward to sharing these products directly with IBM employees,” says Bill Roberts, Groupon vice president of global communications.

Bloomberg contributed to this report.