Ron Johnson Apple StoreIconic department store chain J.C. Penney today announced that its current CEO is stepping out of that role and will be replaced by Apple’s vice president of retail, Ron Johnson.  Myron E. Ullman III will hand the leadership reigns over on Nov. 1, 2011 when he move takes up the position of executive chairman.

Mr. Johnson has spearheaded the retail stores of Apple since their inception in 2001 and has led them to their current size of 300 stores in multiple countries and growing. Mr. Johnson said of his new position, “I’ve always dreamed of leading a major retail company as CEO, and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to help J. C. Penney re-imagine what I believe to be the single greatest opportunity in American retailing today, the Department Store. I have tremendous confidence in J. C. Penney’s future and look forward to working with Mike Ullman, the Executive Board and the Company’s 150,000 associates to transform the way America shops.”

As a show of his belief in the company, Mr. Johnson invested $50 million of his own wealth into the company.  Through this investment he will also join the Company’s Board of Directors as of Aug. 1, 2011.

It would appear that this news has excited J.C. Penney stock holders as evidenced by this screenshot taken of the stock activity today around 2 PM EST.

J.C. Penney stock price

Will Mr. Johnson be able to work his magic on an aging retail brand that has lost a lot of its lust over the years?  It depends on how much freedom he is given.  Changing the fixtures and layouts of a chain all at once is a lot different than rolling out 300 stores over a decade.  We’ll just have to wait and see.

Of course, one of the biggest questions is how will Apple fare without him to now steer its stores?

What do you think of this change up for Apple?