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JCP ‘Could Fail Very Quickly’: Cohen

Friday, 8 Mar 2013 | 2:29 PM ET
Not Sure JCP Can Be Saved: Mark Cohen
Friday, 8 Mar 2013 | 12:21 PM ET
JC Penney under CEO Ron Johnson "could fail very, very quickly" if it doesn't take action, says Mark Cohen, retail veteran and Columbia University professor of marketing.

JC Penney under CEO Ron Johnson "could fail very, very quickly" if it doesn't take action to replace its leadership, retail veteran Mark Cohen said Friday.

On CNBC's "Fast Money," Cohen called JC Penney under Johnson's stewardship "an unmitigated catastrophe" and made the case for his ouster.

Cohen, a marketing professor at Columbia University, joins a growing chorus of industry experts weighing in on Johnson's stewardship of the retail giant, whose performance over the past year has been dismal.

Earlier this week, former JC Penney CEO Allen Questrom criticized the company's board of directors and chief executive.

"The board has to take action. They can't be delusional like Ron Johnson is," Questrom told CNBC on Wednesday. "This has been going on long enough. You can't say you're going to make your numbers for the year and then drop a billion dollars." (Read More: JCP Board Can't Be 'Delusional' Like Ron Johnson: Allen Questrom)

Asked whether putting the company through the upheaval of finding a new chief executive wouldn't hurt the company, Cohen didn't mince words.

(Read More: Firing Ron Johnson Would Lead JC Penney to Bankruptcy: Analyst)

"I guess the question is whether you'd like to see the company go under in the short, medium or longer term," he said. "This is a crisis that needs prompt and aggressive remediation because without it, this company's liquidity is going to disappear, and it could very well disappear as a viable enterprise."

Cohen said that JC Penney had a "window of opportunity" in which to act, after which it would still need "tremendous cooperation" from the financial community and its vendors to reformulate a winning retail strategy.

"But the one they're operating under today has no forward viability in my view," he added.

Cohen, formerly the CEO of Sears Canada, also had a bleak assessment for his old parent company.

"Sears is on a slow, downward spiral, whereas JC Penney has basically nosedived into the ground in a very short period of time," he said.

Both companies, however, would meet the same fate, according to Cohen.

"Sears probably can continue to do business for some period of time. It eventually will fail," he said. "There is no long-term future, in my view, whereas JC Penney could fail very, very quickly if it continues on the trajectory that it's now on."

Trader disclosure: On March 8, 2013, the following stocks and commodities mentioned or intended to be mentioned on CNBC's "Fast Money" were owned by the "Fast Money" traders: Josh Brown is long DXJ; Josh Brown is long AAPL; Joe Terranova is long VRTS; Joe Terranova is long SJM; Joe Terranova is long MJN; Joe Terranova is long AXP; Joe Terranova is long GPS; Joe Terranova is long KORS; Joe Terranova is long GS; Joe Terranova is long SWN; Stephen Weiss is long M; Stephen Weiss is long BAC; Stephen Weiss is long C; Stephen Weiss is long TBF; Stephen Weiss is long AIG; Stephen Weiss is long SPY PUTS; Stephen Weiss is short JCP; Pete Najarian is long AAPL CALLS; Pete Najarian is long C CALLS; Pete Najarian is long JPM CALLS; Pete Najarian is long XLF CALLS; Pete Najarian is long INTC; Pete Najarian is long CSCO CALLS; Pete Najarian is long YHOO; Pete Najarian is long BBRY; Pete Najarian is long SBUX; Pete Najarian is long FB; Pete Najarian is long MSFT;

For Frederick Cannon
KBW or an affiliate expects to receive or intends to seek compensation for investment banking services from Citigroup in the next three months; KBW currently makes a market and/or acts as a liquidity provider in Citigroup securities.


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