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J.C. Penney Names First Female CEO in 116-year History

The Plano-based company taps 30-year retail veteran for the company's top spot.
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For the first time in its 116-year history as a company, J.C. Penney Co. Inc. will be led by a female.

The Plano-based company announced 30-year retail veteran Jill Soltau as its new CEO, effective Oct. 15. Soltau most recently served as president and CEO of JOANN Stores, the nation’s largest fabric and crafts retailer.

“Jill stood out from the start among an incredibly strong slate of candidates,” Paul J. Brown, JCPenney board director, said in a statement. “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.”

Soltau takes the reins from Marvin Ellison, who left the company in July to head up Lowe’s  after he served in the chief role since 2015.

Before JOANN Stores, Soltau spent eight years at Shopko as president and chief merchandising officer. Prior to that, Soltau held senior-level merchandising roles at Sears, Kohl’s, and Carson Pirie Scott.

“JCPenney is a quintessential American brand with a strong and loyal customer base, and I couldn’t be prouder to lead such an iconic retailer,” said Soltau. “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. 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 JCPenney teams and get to work.”

J.C. Penney has 850 locations in 49 states. The retailer had $12.5 billion in sales last year, employs 98,000, and ranks no. 235 on the 2017 Fortune 500 list.

There are now 26 female CEOs leading Fortune 500 companies, according to Forbes.

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