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J.C. Penny CEO Ron Johnson axed after sales plummet

Ron Johnson, right, and Joe Fresh Creative Director

Ron Johnson, right, and Joe Fresh Creative Director Joe Mimran. Credit: Getty

J.C. Penney Chief Executive Ron Johnson, who tried to replace sales and coupons with everyday low prices, is out after sales plunged 25% last year, and the department store chain said it will replace him with his predecessor Mike Ullman.

Johnson's ouster had been rumored for months, but Ullman's return came as something of a shock, considering how he had been publicly condemned by Penney's largest shareholder, hedge fund manager Bill Ackman.

Penney Chairman Thomas Engibous said Ullman was "well-positioned to quickly analyze the situation (Penney) faces and take steps to improve the company’s performance."

Johnson's departure came as Macy’s and J.C. Penney were back in court Monday in their fight over Martha Stewart, with Macy's claiming that some of the items Penney sells on its website infringe on its exclusive deal with the home goods guru.

“The basic shapes and designs are the same," Macy's lawyer Ted Grossman told the judge of the items in question. "They compete directly against each other."

Penney's lawyer, Mark Epstein, said he had only just found out about Grossman's claim. Eric Seiler, a lawyer for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc., said that the Stewart flutes sold by Penney are disposable plastic products and that he thinks Grossman is wrong.

Martha Stewart, 71, Macy's Chief Executive Terry Lundgren and J.C. Penney CEO Johnson all have testified.

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