NEW YORK - It's been a tough week to be Ron Johnson.
J.C. Penney's CEO was in the hot seat again on Friday in New York State Supreme Court after facing investors earlier this week over a dismal quarterly earnings performance that marked one year of snowballing losses and sharp sales declines since he came on board.
This time, he was being grilled for four hours by lawyers from rival Macy's Inc. who presented emails that he wrote that they believe illustrate how he plotted to push home diva Martha Stewart to breach an exclusive deal with his rival. They contend he wanted Macy's backed into a corner so Penney would be the sole department store distributor of some of Stewart's goods.
Ron Johnson, left, CEO of J.C. Penney, arrives at New York Supreme Court, Friday. Johnson is expected to testify in a trial that pits the struggling department store chain against rival Macy's Inc. over a partnership with Martha Stewart.
But in cross examination by Penney's attorneys, Johnson, dressed in a dark suit and striped navy tie, rejected their claims and painted a far less devious portrait of himself. He said he just wanted to get a piece of the action while helping the struggling Martha Stewart business grow. And he says that the expanded partnership could be good for everyone, including Macy's.
"Your success is based on a success of a vendor," Johnson testified. "Competition can be your friend."
Penney ended up signing a pact in December 2011 with Martha Stewart Living to open shops at most of its stores in spring 2013. But one month later, Macy's renewed its long-standing exclusive deal until 2018 and then immediately sued Martha Stewart Living and Penney.