Why J.C. Penney Company, Inc. (JCP) and Hewlett-Packard Company (HPQ) Are Twin Sisters

J.C. Penney Company, Inc. (NYSE:JCP) and Hewlett-Packard Company (NYSE:HPQ) can’t possibly be more different from one another. The former is a department store while the latter operates in the diversified computer systems industry. The former has a $3 billion market cap while the latter is a giant $40 billion company. In addition, HP was founded in 1939 while J.C. Penney is a much older brand, dating back to 1902.
Hewlett-Packard Company (NYSE:HPQ)

But despite these differences, both companies resemble some striking similarities. One can learn a lot on how not to run a public company by studying these two companies closely. In a striking contrast to Hewlett-Packard Company (NYSE:HPQ) and J.C. Penney Company, Inc. (NYSE:JCP), Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT) Stores is a great example of how not to become the next J.C. Penney or the next HP.

Executive exodus

If you wish to perform an in-depth analysis of a media company, it’s always a good idea to watch the rate of churn very closely. This rate indicates the number of subscribers that abandoned the company or stopped receiving services during that time period. Now, HP and J.C. Penney Company, Inc. (NYSE:JCP) both seem to be suffering from an extremely high churn rate, not of subscribers but of their executives.

Hewlett-Packard Company (NYSE:HPQ) has gone through three CEOs in two years. Starting in 2010, longtime CEO Mark Hurd left following a sex scandal. Leo Apotheker replaced him. He was fired before his one-year anniversary last September. Now, former eBay CEO Meg Whitman holds the position. At a time when HP should have been developing strategies to regain market share and combat a falling market for PCs, it instead had to focus on shuffling executives. And J.C. Penney’s situation isn’t very different.

On Apr. 9, Ron Johnson, the man handpicked by billionaire hedge-fund manager Bill Ackman to turn J.C. Penney Company, Inc. (NYSE:JCP) around, was ousted after only a year and a half. His successor on the job was Myron Ullman III. For those of you with a short memory, let me kindly remind you that Myron was Johnson’s predecessor. That’s right. Johnson was replaced by a man that he himself replaced a year a go. If that’s not an indication of a total chaos in the company, then I don’t know what is. The market agreed with me on that. Following the announcement, the company’s share price nosedived by 13%.

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT), on the other hand, doesn’t play shuffle with its executives. It cherry picks them and they stick with it for years. No reason to change what’s working.