Chapter 13: Last of the Good Men


The company gave Seibert a couple of years ' vacation running things in Italy, Spain, and Belgium, where Penney was phasing out its European experiment. [1] Then the board passed over president Jack Jackson and made Don Seibert J. C. Penney's fifth CEO on the recommendation of retiring Mil Batten. [2] When Jackson retired (and became a prominent Dallas banker), the board made Neppl president, and the two friends began their close collaboration.

Most friendships would have been bruised by one man rising above the other. Not these two. Seibert said years later, "I was as surprised I got it as I was surprised Walt didn't, because everything he did in New York was outstanding. And I told him that right away." Neppl added, "No problem. I always thought Don was someone special. I would have voted for him over me, too. Because then I get to heckle him."

Pull It Together

Hal Eddins was a vice president and administrative assistant during Mil Batten's last years in charge. He then served Don Seibert's entire chairmanship and Bill Howell's first few years at the top. He had this to say about what Seibert faced at the end of Batten's reign:

Batten was the visionary , responsible for more new ideas and programs than anybody. Most, like dominating the malls, were great successes. Others were not so successful. Some, like trying to expand into Europe, were flat-out losers. When he retired and went on to run the New York Stock Exchange, he left a very successful but scattered company. So now it was up to Don Seibert to sort things out and pull the company together. Not the easiest of assignments. People say, "Don Seibert was such a quiet and thoughtful man." Well, yes. What they don't realize, though, is that Don had to be more of the stable, healer type. The time for flamboyance was over. But he also had a passion for the company and, in particular, this overarching desire to create a mechanism to perpetuate what was best about JCPenney. [3] Sounds noble, but it doesn't sound easy, which certainly proved to be true.

[1] The problems included corruption in the sunny countries and suffocating regulation on the North Sea.

[2] Batten was not pleased with the widely known fact that Jackson had a mistress (on the payroll). Although admiring both Neppl and Seibert (and their solid families), Walt was probably a little too exuberant for Batten.

[3] At about this time the company began to be known as "JCPenney," having had several appellations over the century from "The Golden Rule" to "Penney's" and beyond. For the rest of this book, "JCPenney" will often be used. However, when appropriate, I will also designate "Penney" and "J. C. Penney," as well as sometimes affixing the formal "Company."




Celebration of Fools. An Inside Look at the Rise and Fall of JCPenney
Celebration of Fools: An Inside Look at the Rise and Fall of JCPenney
ISBN: 0814471595
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2003
Pages: 177
Authors: Bill Hare

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