Plano, Texas -- In an announcement that caught the retail industry by surprise, J.C. Penney Co. said that Michael Francis will be leaving the company, effective June 18. Chief executive Ron Johnson will assume direct responsibility and oversight of the company's marketing and merchandising functions.
Francis became president of J.C. Penney on Oct. 4. His appointment was seen as the handiwork of then-incoming CEO Johnson, who is himself a former Target executive. No reason was given for Francis’ departure. In a statement, Johnson said: "We thank Michael for his hard work at J.C. Penney and wish him the best in his future endeavors."
Johnson lured Francis away from Target, where he served as chief marketing officer, and was credited with enhancing the retailer's fun and hip image. At J.C. Penney, he was responsible for all merchandising, marketing, planning and allocation, and product development and sourcing functions. In announcing the appointment, Johnson said Francis had the vision "to reimagine the department store experience.”
Francis is the first top executive to leave since Johnson took charge of J.C. Penney last year.
J.C. Penney is in the midst of a vast transformation, which is being led by Johnson. The company reported a $163 million first-quarter loss and has recently been backing off on its new pricing strategy, bringing back some promotions. Shares of J.C. Penney fell nearly 6% in after-hours trading Monday on the news of Francis' departure.
Francis began his marketing career in 1985 with Marshall Field’s, which in 1990 was acquired by Target. He was promoted to EVP marketing at Target in 2001, and was named CMO in 2008. In January 2011, he was charged with overseeing with Target’s entrance into the Canadian market.