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Fast-growing, fast-casual restaurant brand names COO

BY Marianne Wilson

Mod Super Fast Pizza Holdings, which will open about 100 locations this year, has tapped an experienced executive to help oversee its aggressive growth.

Mod announced the appointment of John Maguire as COO, effective October 22, 2018. He will lead the company’s store operations across its more than 380 locations, with a strong focus on all phases of expansion and growth. Maguire will report directly to Paul Twohig, Mod’s president. (Twohig was previously president and COO). Twohig will continue to lead store development (domestic and international real estate, design and construction), culinary, supply chain, and international and franchise operations.

Maguire was previously president and CEO of FIC Restaurants Inc. (Friendly’s restaurants), a position he held since 2012. In 2016, he subsequently took on the role of president and CEO of Johnny Rockets Group in addition to his position with FIC. Across both private-equity-owned companies, Maguire led global operations, franchising and store development for a combined 625 locations.

Prior to his time with Friendly’s and Johnny Rockets, Maguire spent 20 years at Panera Bread, in numerous retail operations roles, the last six of which were spent as executive VP and COO.

“As a leader at Panera during their formative years of growth combined with his experience leading two loved brands, John brings the perfect mix of deep operating expertise combined with experience sustaining the culture required to build an iconic brand,” said Scott Svenson, co-founder and CEO of Mod “Most importantly, though, John lives the values and beliefs at the heart of MOD. The thing which most attracted him was our commitment to using our business as a platform to make a positive impact on our people and the communities we serve.”

Mod, a 2017 winner of Chain Store Age’s Breakout Retailers Awards, was founded in 2008 with a “people-first” mission. It is well known for its support of local non-profits and also for its employee-centric culture. In addition to above industry-average pay and benefits, and hiring people with special needs, Mod maintains an emergency fund that provides financial assistance to employees in times of expected need.

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Joann Stores on hunt for a new CEO

BY Marianne Wilson

J.C. Penney’s gain is Joann Stores’ loss.

Joann Stores is on the hunt for a new chief executive in the wake of the departure of Jill Soltau who has resigned as president and CEO, effective immediately, to take the top spot at J.C. Penney. Wade Miquelon, executive VP and CFO will serve as interim president and CEO of Joann, while continuing in his current role as executive VP and CFO, while the board conducts an executive search process.

“On behalf of the board of directors, I want to thank Jill for her leadership and vision to achieve sustained, profitable growth during her tenure at Joann, and wish her the best in her future endeavors,” said John Yoon, principal, Leonard Green & Partners, which acquired Joann in 2011.

Miquelon joined Joann as executive VP and CFO in March 2016 and partnered with Soltau to advance a strategic growth plan that includes revitalized branding, refreshed merchandising strategy, expanded digital capabilities, and customer-focused storefront innovation, the company said. Previously, he was executive VP, CFO and president of international at The Walgreen Company.

Joann operates more than 865 stores across 49 states.

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J.C. Penney names new CEO

BY Marianne Wilson

The search is over — J.C. Penny has named Jill Soltau, a 30-year retail veteran, as chief executive officer. She is the first woman to lead the 116-year-old department store retailer.

Soltau, whose appointment is effective Oct. 15, most recently served as president and CEO of Joann Stores, the nation’s largest fabric and crafts retailer. Prior to Joann, she spent eight years at Shopko Stores, most recently as president after serving as executive VP and chief merchandising officer.

Before Shopko, Soltau held several senior level positions in merchandising, planning and private brand management at Sears and Kohl’s. She started her career with Carson Pirie Scott, which was later acquired by Saks Inc.

Soltau has her work cut out for her at Penney. The chain is struggling with slumping sales and a stock price that has been at historic lows. She succeeds Marvin Ellison, who left the chain in May to take the top spot at Lowe’s. Since then, several other executives have also left Penney, including, most recently, its CFO.

Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail, said that putting an experienced female executive in the top role at Penney was a sensible move.

“One of JCP’s central problems has been its inability to connect with women shoppers, especially in terms of fashion,” he said. “We believe Ms. Soltau will have a far more intuitive understanding of the changes that need to be made than many of those who held the role before her. This, along with her deep experience of retail – especially in terms of merchandising – will prove invaluable in turning the retailer around.”

The news of Soltau’s appointment sent Penney shares up more than 10% after hours on Tuesday, when the company made the announcement. She will also become a member of the retailer’s board of directors.

“Jill stood out from the start among an incredibly strong slate of candidates,” said Paul J. Brown, J.C. Penney board director and chairman of the search committee. “As we looked for the right person to lead this iconic company, we wanted someone with rich apparel and merchandising experience and found Jill to be an ideal fit. Not only is she an established CEO and former chief merchant, her depth of experience in product development, marketing, e-commerce and store operations have been an important basis for the turnaround work she spearheaded at prior companies.”

In a statement, Soltau called Penney “a quintessential American brand” and said she “couldn’t be prouder to lead such an iconic retailer.”

“I am highly passionate about the customer and I spent my entire career focused on the needs of a value-based consumer by researching, understanding and meeting her expectations for style, quality and inspiration,” she said. “Every position I’ve held has prepared me for this role, and I couldn’t be more excited to meet the talented and hard-working J.C. Penney teams and get to work.”

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