Ron Johnson is out as CEO of J.C. Penney. After less than two years on the job, it’s not quite clear what the next step would be for him. Luckily for him, it just so happens that Johnson’s former employer, Apple,(s AAPL) has an opening for someone with his qualifications: SVP of Retail.
Yes, that’s Johnson’s old job, the one that he held for more than 10 years. And he was really, really good at it. The establishment of Apple Stores in 2001, which he helped implement, ushered in Apple’s greatest era of prosperity. With the physical stores’ minimalist design that perfectly reflected Apple’s ethos and aesthetic appeal, and a tightly curated range of products for sale, Johnson’s Apple Store concept has attracted millions of visitors each year and inspired many imitators, even among the company’s most direct competitors.
Granted, that’s partly why he left; to find a new challenge in the post-Steve Jobs era at Apple. But funny enough, Apple hasn’t found anyone to fill the position (at least anyone that would accept the job) that could live up to Johnson’s legacy. It certainly made an effort. But that effort involved hiring John Browett away from the U.K. discount electronics retailer Dixons, and it was a total bust. Browett was let go as SVP of Retail after less than a year; even he now says he was “a bad fit” at the company.
Johnson has been on the rocks for a while now at J.C. Penney too. The stock has tanked during his tenure.
Meanwhile, since Browett left in October, there has been no replacement. Cook has reportedly been searching for the right candidate, though it’s curious it has taken this long to find someone to fill such a plum post.
Perhaps today’s news offers a clue as to what Cook has been waiting for: to make an offer to Johnson.