Plus, Macy’s finds a new chief marketing officer and Wolverine Worldwide hires a new president of global ecommerce.

The new owners of J.C. Penney Co. Inc.—Simon and Brookfield Asset Management Inc.—replaced CEO Jill Soltau less than a month after re-launching the department store chain that went bankrupt during the pandemic.

Soltau departed Dec. 31. Stanley Shashoua, the chief investment officer of Simon Property Group Inc., took over as interim CEO while a search for a new CEO is conducted, according to a statement from the company.

Mall owners Simon and Brookfield Asset Management acquired J.C. Penney Co’s retail operations to help keep one of their biggest tenants in business.

The departure is another burden for the struggling department store chain, which made rapid-fire leadership changes over the past decade as a series of turnaround plans fell short. While it wouldn’t be unusual for new owners to bring in a new leader, restarting the process could hurt J.C. Penney as it tries to right the company, said David Swartz, equity analyst at Morningstar Inc. “It’s not great news,” Swartz said.

Soltau, hired in October 2018, was in the middle of overseeing her own turnaround plan and putting a new team in place when the COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe this year and temporarily shuttered many retail stores. By May, J.C. Penney was bankrupt. She remained in the top job throughout the bankruptcy process, and the new owners highlighted her comments as CEO in the Dec. 7 announcement of the relaunch under the JCPenney name. JCPenney is No. 31 in the 2020 Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000.

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Simon and Brookfield plan to establish a temporary office of the CEO that will include members of JCPenney’s current management team, according to the statement. J.C. Penney Co. was split up during the bankruptcy into the operating company, which is owned by the mall operators, while lenders get the property company. The latter remains in the Chapter 11 process and is expected to emerge in the first half of 2021.

Soltau came over from craft retail chain Joann.com (No. 339), and before that was an executive at now-defunct Midwestern department store chain Shopko Stores Inc. Soltau worked to improve inventory management and lure more shoppers by revamping merchandise.

Now, as an intensifying pandemic threatens more disruption and store closings, “it would be much smoother” if Soltau could continue steering the turnaround, or if the company had a plan in place, Swartz said.

Macy’s finds a new chief merchandising officer

Macy’s Inc. (No. 14) named  Nata Dvir as the new chief merchandising officer of the Macy’s brand. Dvir is senior vice president and general business manager for beauty and center core merchandise, and effective Feb. 1. will be chief merchandising officer.

Dvir will be responsible for leading Macy’s merchandising, with oversight of all merchandising categories and private brands, according to a press release announcing the news. She will replace Patti Ongman, who was promoted to the post about two years ago and has been at Macy’s for 35 years. Ongman plans to retire when she leaves her post.

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“Nata is a strong merchant with deep connections to our partners, first-rate instincts and an eye for newness,” said Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette. “I’m confident that she will continue our merchandising transformation, influencing our customers’ personal style through accessible fashion, clear value and an enhanced digital and store experience.”

Dvir has been with Macy’s for more than 15 years. She has held various leadership positions and was given a newly created role of general business manager for beauty in 2017.

Wolverine Worldwide names a new president of global ecommerce

Wolverine Worldwide Inc. (No. 241), which owns footwear and lifestyle brands such as Harley-Davidson, Hush Puppies and Keds, appointed Matt Blonder as its new president of global ecommerce.

Blonder comes from shoe brand Reebok, where he served as the global head of marketing for more than three years. At Reebok, he “transformed the brand’s digital strategy, led a complete refresh of Reebok.com, revamped the digital consumer experience, and introduced a new global loyalty program,” according to the press release. And before that, he held leadership positions at Barnes & Noble Booksellers Inc. (No. 76) and Toys R Us Inc.

“Wolverine Worldwide witnessed a dramatic change in consumer behavior last year, highlighted by a significant shift to ecommerce and heightened digital engagement,” said president Brendan Hoffman. “We capitalized on this by accelerating our pivot to a digital-first strategy and expanding our digital investments and capabilities, all aimed at engaging consumers online with pinnacle brand experiences, fresh and innovative product, and compelling storytelling.”

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Wolverine Worldwide has a goal to achieve $500 million in global ecommerce revenue for 2021, Hoffman said.

“Matt’s proven track record makes him the ideal person to lead this ongoing digital transformation,” he said.

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