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J.C. Penney Names Jill Soltau of Joann Stores as Chief Executive

J.C. Penney Co. announced that Jill Soltau will take over as chief executive officer, bringing 30 years of retail experience to the embattled department-store chain.

Soltau, who has served as CEO of Joann Stores since 2015, will step into the role on Oct. 15, J.C. Penney said Tuesday in a statement. Shares of the retailer surged as much as 12 percent in late trading.

The announcement removes some of the uncertainty from the company, which has suffered investors’ ire since Marvin Ellison left in May to become head of Lowe’s Cos. His departure was followed by that of Chief Financial Officer Jeffrey Davis in late September. Soltau now faces a business that has struggled to correct inventory issues and whose latest quarterly report left analysts fuming.

“Jill stood out from the start among an incredibly strong slate of candidates,” said J.C. Penney board director Paul J. Brown, who chaired the search committee. “We wanted someone with rich apparel and merchandising experience and found Jill to be an ideal fit.”

The shares rose as high as $1.75 in after hours trading. Through Tuesday’s close, they are down 51 percent this year.

In August, J.C. Penney posted comparable-store sales for the second quarter that were close to flat and forecast a much wider loss for the current year. The results prompted one analyst to label the shares as “worthless,” while another suggested the chain was in “no man’s land.”

While running Joann, Soltau took issue with the Trump administration’s tariffs on Chinese goods. The company dubbed the tariffs a “made-in-America tax” and Soltau even testified before the administration on the duties. Joann directly asked its millions of customers to oppose the president’s trade policies and warned shoppers that the tariffs will mean higher prices.