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Macy's chooses CEO to succeed Terry Lundgren in 2017

Macy's Terry Lundgren, who has been at the company's helm since 2003, will step down as CEO next year, at a turbulent time for the company and the retail industry.

Jeff Gennette, who was elected president of Macy's in 2014, will assume the CEO position during the first quarter. Lundgren, 64, will continue as executive chairman and work alongside him, the company announced Thursday.

Gennette was widely expected to succeed Lundgren upon the latter's retirement. Starting immediately, he will join the board, bringing the number of directors to 14. During the transition, Gennette will oversee the retailer's stores.

Macy's operates about 870 stores, including Bloomingdale's, Macy's Backstage and Bluemercury stores.

The announcement was made before the market opened. Macy's shares rose more than 3 percent in early trading. (Click here for the latest price.)

"I have been honored to lead this enterprise through a period of unprecedented reinvention. While our company is larger, stronger and more resourceful than we were 13 years ago, now is the time to reset our business model to thrive in a future that is being driven by rapid evolution in consumer preferences and shopping habits," Lundgren said in a statement. "Our company must and will change in response to the profound secular forces that are driving consumer spending."

Once a darling of Wall Street, Macy's fortunes have changed in recent years as consumers have shifted their spending toward experiences versus apparel. During the first quarter, sales at the company's stores that had been open at least a year fell 5.6 percent. That was the steepest decline in its same-store sales since second quarter 2009.

As the company's shares have slid, plunging more than 50 percent over the past year, Macy's has attracted the attention of activist investor Jeff Smith. Smith, the CEO of Starboard Capital, has argued that the company is massively undervalued because its real estate holdings were underappreciated.

Shortly after Smith began pressuring Macy's to evaluate its store portfolio and potentially spin off properties, the company hired an executive vice president for real estate, whose goal is to identify potential joint ventures or other partnerships for the company's flagship and mall locations.

Macy's has also drawn the eye of David Einhorn's Greenlight Capital, who said earlier this year that the department store could be a takeover target. His firm owns 2.3 percent of the company's shares.

Gennette, 55, became president of Macy's in March 2014 after five years as chief merchandising officer. Before that, he was president and CEO of Macy's West in San Francisco. He joined the department store back in 1983 as an executive trainee. Gennette has also worked at FAO Schwarz.