At JC Penney
It would be unfair to say Ron Johnson deceived JC Penney. He didn't lie because, as George Costanza said, It's not a lie . . . if you believe it.
It's difficult to blame Johnson for the "crime" he did commit: Being delusional. It's tough to ignore your own press clippings. It's easy to discount the impact of Steve Jobs, taking credit for the success your CEO drove and then effectively disrespecting him with the story of your exit from Apple.
From one poet, Costanza, to another, Springsteen: Is a dream a lie if it don't come true. Or is it something worse?
As it turns out it was a total pipe dream to think Ron Johnson ever was the visionary JC Penney requires. Doesn't matter who says he did, there's no way Johnson did anything but exactly what Steve Jobs told him to do with Apple retail. If he took the lead on anything other than implementing Jobs' plans, he sure as hell would not have driven JCP into the ground kamikaze style. If you have the talent to create the Apple retail experience, there's no way you can fail beyond miserably at your new gig.
The talk that Apple would even consider bringing Johnson back only reinforces how poorly most of the tech and financial media misunderstands this company post-Steve Jobs.
Consider Erica Ogg, writing for GigaOM :
Apple SVP of Retail isJohnson'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.
. . . 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.
. . . Cook has reportedly been searching for the right candidate ...
Perhaps today's news offers a clue as to what Cook has been waiting for: to make an offer to Johnson.
Note how Ogg uses "which he helped implement" interchangeably with "Johnson's Apple Store concept." And, like so much Apple coverage, she refuses -- or, worse yet, just cannot see -- what's really wrong.
It's not that Apple cannot find the right person for the retail job. It's that Apple executives -- retail or otherwise -- no longer ride shotgun with Steve Jobs. That's what Apple needs to deal with -- how to proceed without Steve Jobs. You don't just move on, without missing a beat, from such a massive loss.
Ron Johnson doesn't have the answers Apple needs. He never did. It was all a lie. Not one the delusional Johnson told, but one many of us, particularly AAPL bulls, wanted to believe. Bringing Johnson back to Apple will prove as unimaginative as Penney's decision to call its former CEO in from the bullpen.
If that's the next big move Tim Cook makes -- rehiring Johnson -- I'll buy a PC. Maybe even an "ultrabook." Seriously.
--Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.
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