During his 11 years at Apple, Johnson led Apple’s retail stores and has been credited with developing the popular Genius Bar, where customers can get hands-on technical support for their Mac, iPad or other devices.
Ullman has been CEO and chairman since December 2004.
Apple’s retail chain has grown to 300 stores in the U.S. and abroad and has become the gold standard for other retailers looking to make their stores modern and exciting. Johnson joined Apple after 15 years at Target Corp., where he was a merchandising executive who led the team that brought designer Michael Graves’ products to the “cheap chic” retailer.
Penney’s shares rose $5.26, or 17.5 percent, to close at $35.37 Tuesday.
Johnson “is widely recognized and highly regarded in the retail industry for his creativity and innovation, his commitment to empowering employees to deliver an unparalleled customer experience, and to making stores exciting places where people love to shop,” Ullman said in a statement.
Johnson told The Associated Press it was difficult to leave Apple but added that becoming CEO was a “lifelong dream.” He said he’s joining Penney at a time when momentum is building and said he wants to help “re-imagine what I believe to be the single greatest opportunity in American retailing today, the department store.”
Apple spokeswoman Amy Bessette said, “We have got a great retail team in place and are actively recruiting for his replacement.”
Under Ullman’s stewardship, Penney, based in Plano, Texas, has moved from offering mainly store brands to filling its floors with trendy Sephora cosmetics shops and affordable lines like Cindy Crawford Style. Last year, it became the only U.S. retailer to sell Liz Claiborne and Claiborne women’s wear.