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extends talks

GM extends talks on $2 billion deal with Nikola after fraud, sexual assault allegations surface against Trevor Milton – CNBC

Nikola Motor Company Badger pickup truck

Source: Nikola Motor Company

General Motors and Nikola are not expected to finalize a $2 billion deal scheduled to close before Wednesday after allegations of fraud and sexual abuse surfaced against the embattled start-up’s founder and former executive chairman, Trevor Milton, according to two people familiar with the negotiations.

Executives at both companies are expected to extend the talks, the people said, asking not to be identified because the negotiations aren’t public. 

The deal was initially viewed as a no-lose situation for GM. The partnership would give the Detroit automaker an 11% stake in the company for supplying Nikola battery and fuel cell technologies as well as producing Nikola’s Badger pickup.

Shares of Nikola closed Tuesday down 7.4% to $17.88 – the stock’s lowest closing since the company went public on June 4. Nikola’s shares rose by more than 5% in after-hours trading. GM shares closed down 2.4% to $28.74.

Spokespeople with both companies declined to comment on the talks, citing ongoing negotiations.

The deal was hailed by Wall Street and sent shares of Nikola up as much as 53% on the day of the announcement, which Milton called a “‘partnership made in heaven.” GM CEO Mary Barra described it as a “win-win.” But the celebration quickly soured.

Two days after the announcement, short seller Hindenburg Research released a damning report accusing Milton of making false statements about the company’s technology to attract investors and partnerships with other automakers. It characterized Nikola as an “intricate fraud built on dozens of lies” by Milton, who dismissed many of the claims before resigning on Sept. 21.

Milton’s resignation combined with the fraud claims, which have reportedly sparked inquiries by the Securities and Exchange Commission and Department of Justice, cratered Nikola shares. Since the deal was announced, shares are down more than 60% – making the company much less attractive to GM.

The most recent blow to the Nikola-GM deal is continuing to play out. Two women, as first reported by CNBC, have now filed sexual assault claims with Utah authorities against Milton. Both allegations were more than 15 years old but involve a cousin and an office assistant when both were 15 years old. Milton’s cousin Aubrey Ferrin Smith said he assaulted her in 1999 when he was 17 while the other woman says her alleged assault took place in 2004 when he was 22. CNBC doesn’t identify the victims of sexual assault unless the victim chooses to publicly release their name.

The deal may be terminated by either side if it’s not closed by Dec. 3, according to a public filing by Nikola when the partnership was announced.

The fraud and sexual assault claims have raised major concerns about the due diligence GM and others involved performed on Nikola. 

GM declined to say whether the company was aware of any allegations of fraud or sexual abuse regarding Milton. GM CEO Mary Barra earlier this month defended the company’s partnership with Nikola, saying it conducted “appropriate diligence” before announcing the agreement.

GM was introduced to Nikola through Steve Girsky, the former vice chairman of GM who succeeded Milton as executive chairman at Nikola earlier this month. Girsky is a managing partner at VectoIQ, the special purpose acquisition company that took Nikola public. He joined Nikola’s board after the deal closed.

Regarding Nikola, Girsky previously said his company “showed up with an army of people to diligence this thing,” according to a webcast with an industry show, Autoline, in early August.

“We really crawled all over these guys. It wasn’t pleasant at times,” he said, adding he didn’t “doubt there are going to be twists and turns here, but I did put my reputation on the line for this thing.”

Girsky did not return calls or texts for comment. VectoIQ did not return emails. Bosch, an auto supplier partner of Nikola since 2017, declined to comment on its due diligence process regarding Nikola.

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stimulus talks

Stimulus Talks May Resume As Pelosi Plans New $2.4 Trillion Covid-19 Relief Package – Forbes

House Democratic Leaders Hold News Conference To Discuss Major Reforms Package

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After more than a month of stalled stimulus negotiations, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will move to introduce a new $2.4 trillion stimulus package. The package would be narrower than the $3.4 trillion Heroes Act passed by the House in May. While still more costly than Republicans have been willing to accept, the new stimulus proposal would likely restart negotiations with the White House.

Here’s what you need to know.

New Stimulus Package

According to The Washington Post, Pelosi asked House committee chairs to begin assembling a bill. The relief package is expected to include a second stimulus check, aid to state and local governments, airlines and small businesses. It will also include rental assistance, additional unemployment benefits and funds for the Postal Service and election security.

Pelosi’s abrupt change came as some Democrats were pushing for a narrower deal that could pass. Several weeks ago more than 100 House Democrats signed letters to Pelosi urging her to move forward on various relief proposals.

One of those letters came from Rep. Cindy Axne (D-Iowa). In that letter she urged Pelosi to “bring up a simplified, straightforward COVID-19 relive package.” This week Axne was collecting signatures from lawmakers on a second letter to Pelosi that according to The Washington Post read: “We write to you now to implore you to brig a revised and streamlined COVID-19 relief package to the floor next week. Americans are counting on us; they cannot wait any longer.”

Last week, a bipartisan group of 50 lawmakers released a stimulus package framework calling for $1.5 trillion in relief. President Trump has expressed his support for this framework.

Stimulus Negotiations

The new stimulus package is expected to include $2.4 trillion in relief. That’s more than the $2.2 trillion Pelosi had offered during negotiations. As such, it raises the question whether the new package will move the parties closer to a deal. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) criticized the news of a new stimulus bill, saying that it “shows again she’s not serious about a Covid relief bill, that she’s just playing politics.”

There is good reason, however, to believe that the new package could move the parties closer to a deal. While the total aid package is $200 billion more than Pelosi’s earlier offer, the details of the new bill will be critical. Republican negotiators have been frustrated by Pelosi’s insistence on $915 billion in state and local aid and $600 a week in extra unemployment benefits If the new package shows a willingness by Pelosi to compromise on these issues, it could be a positive step towards a stimulus deal.

On state and local government aid, experts believe that $500 billion is needed, far less than Pelosi has demanded to date. Likewise, the demand for $600 a week in extra unemployment benefits has come under pressure. While there is some dispute over whether such an amount discourages individuals from returning to work, it’s clear that $600 pays many people more than they made working.

The bipartisan framework introduced last week compromised on both of these issues. It called for $500 billion in aid to state and local governments and $450 to $600 in extra unemployment benefits. If the new package embraces this bipartisan framework, it would signal a significant shift in Pelosi’s position.

Airlines Aid

Another factor that could bring the parties together this month is aid for the airline industry. Payroll protections under the Cares Act expire on October 1st, and airlines have threatened to lay off thousands of workers if additional aid is not forthcoming.

Massive layoffs in the airline industry would come as the economic recovery struggles to take hold. In testimony before Congress, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell testified that more stimulus is needed. He added that he expects the economy to have a harder time sustaining growth.

Previous stimulus negotiations involved Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. In testimony before Congress, Mnuchin agreed that “comprehensive relief” was necessary and that he was available “any time” to resume negotiations.

Now we wait.

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Moderna talks

Moderna in talks to supply Japan with 40 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine – MarketWatch

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CDC now says people without symptoms who have been exposed to COVID-19 don’t need to get tested

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday updated guidance to say that Americans who have recently been exposed to someone with COVID-19 for more than 15 minutes and do not have symptoms do not need to get tested. “You do not necessarily need a test unless you are a vulnerable individual or your health care provider or state or local public health officials recommend you take one,” the CDC said. This is a change from previous guidance that said people who had spent more than 15 minutes with an individual who has tested positive for the virus should also get tested, regardless of symptoms. The U.S. has conducted more than 73 million tests this year, and about 6 million of them have come back positive. The CDC’s decision has been criticized by some in the medical community. “Our work on the ‘silent’ spread underscores the importance of testing people who have been exposed to COVID-19 regardless of symptoms,” Alison Galvani, an epidemiologist and director of the Center for Infectious Disease Modeling and Analysis, tweeted. “This change in policy will kill.” It is estimated that up to 40% of people who have COVID-19 are asymptomatic, meaning they do not demonstrate common symptoms of an infection like coughing or muscle aches, according to one research letter published in May in JAMA Network.

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Biden talks

Jill Biden talks of Joe Biden’s ‘unstoppable’ will amid grief: Takeaways from night 2 of the DNC – USA TODAY

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Jill Biden, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter highlighted the list of speakers during night two of the Democratic National Convention.

USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – The second night of the virtual Democratic National Convention included a roll call in which Joe Biden formally secured the delegates to become the party’s presidential nominee.

The evening featured speeches from two former presidents – Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter – and Colin Powell, former secretary of state to Republican President George W. Bush.

It ended with a moving segment chronicling the love story that led Biden to his wife, Jill Biden. Jill Biden capped off the night with a personal speech about how family tragedies, including the death of his first wife and infant daughter and later the death of their son Beau, helped to shape the former vice president’s character.

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Live coverage of DNC Night 2: Joe Biden secures enough delegates to become the Democratic presidential nominee

Jill Biden talks of family grief

Dr. Jill Biden, the former second lady, spoke from the empty halls of Brandywine High School, where she once taught English. 

“I hear it from so many of you: the frustration of parents juggling work while they support their children’s learning – or are afraid that their kids might get sick from school,” she said, alluding to school closures and openings occurring as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. 

“Across the country, educators, parents, first responders—Americans of all walks of life are putting their shoulders back, fighting for each other. We haven’t given up,” she said. 

Biden’s endorsement of her husband was extremely personal, drawing on the death of their son, Beau. 

“Four days after Beau’s funeral, I watched Joe shave and put on his suit. I saw him steel himself in the mirror — take a breath put his shoulders back and walk out into a world empty of our son. He went back to work. That’s just who he is,” she said. 

Biden drew parallels between the couple’s grief over their son and the suffering of the nation amid a deadly pandemic and a recession.

“How do you make a broken family whole?” she said. “The same way you make a nation whole. With love and understanding – and with small acts of kindness. With bravery. With unwavering faith. You show up for each other, in big ways and small ones, again and again.”

Beau Biden died in 2015 at 46 after battling glioblastoma – the most aggressive form of brain cancer. The former vice president has said Beau’s death was what led him to decide against a run for the White House in 2016. The death was also one of the reasons Biden chose Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate, as the two became friends when Harris was attorney general in California, and Beau Biden held the same role in Delaware.

Biden’s losses have helped define his political career. Throughout his campaign, he’s been known to shed tears when talking with voters on the campaign trail about his own pain and grief. Biden lost his first wife, Neilia, and their 1-year-old daughter, Naomi, in a car crash in 1972 when Biden, 29, was a senator-elect. The crash left his two sons hospitalized. 

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Dr. Jill Biden delivers a speech from a school in Wilmington, Delaware about COVID and closed schools for the Democratic National Convention.

USA TODAY

Colin Powell endorses Biden, accuses Trump of dividing country 

Colin Powell, who served as secretary of state under Republican former President George W. Bush, endorsed Biden for president, saying that he “will be a president we will all be proud to salute.”

“With Joe Biden in the White House, you will never doubt that he will stand with our friends and stand up to our adversaries – never the other way around,” Powell said. “He will trust our diplomats and our intelligence community, not the flattery of dictators and despots.”

Powell, a retired four-star Army general, is also a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Powell has been an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump, calling him a  “dangerous for our democracy” in June. He again hit Trump Tuesday on the divisions he says the president has helped sow across the country.

“Today, we are a country divided, and we have a president doing everything in his power to make it that way and keep us that way. What a difference it will make to have a president who unites us,” Powell said.

Powell was among several Republican critics of Trump featured at the convention. On Monday, former Ohio Gov. John Kasich and former Rep. Susan Molinari, criticized Trump and endorsed Biden. 

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Former Secretary of State Colin Powell delivers remarks to the Democratic National Convention about national security and a strong commander-in-chief.

USA TODAY

Cindy McCain video about Biden-McCain friendship 

Cindy McCain made an appearance at the DNC Tuesday in a video segment geared toward highlighting Biden’s ability to work across the aisle. The video put a spotlight on the friendship between Joe Biden and her husband, the late Sen. John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee.

Cindy McCain joined the DNC’s slate of prominent Republicans attesting to Biden’s character. 

“It was a friendship that shouldn’t have worked,” Cindy McCain said in the video. “John, a former Navy pilot just released from a North Vietnamese prison. Joe, a young senator from Delaware. But in the 1970s, Joe was assigned a military aide for a trip overseas.”

McCain did not outright endorse Biden for president in her video. She did, however, recount moments of the Biden-McCain friendship, with photos and video clips of the two men throughout their careers.

McCain, along with her daughter, TV commentator Meghan McCain, have been at times outspoken critics against Trump, whose feud with the late senator dates to 2015, when Trump launched his first bid. Trump has continued to criticize the late senator even after his death in 2018 after battling brain cancer. 

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Cindy McCain voices a video about the decades-long friendship between Joe Biden and her late husband, Sen. John McCain.

USA TODAY

Bill Clinton: Oval Office should be a ‘command center,’ not a ‘storm center’

Former Democratic President Bill Clinton, 74, offered strong support for Biden in remarks focused heavily on criticism of Donald Trump, including the president’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

“COVID hit us much harder than it had to,” Clinton said. “We have just 4 percent of the world’s population, but 25 percent of the world’s COVID cases. Our unemployment rate is more than twice as high as South Korea’s, two and a half times the United Kingdom’s, and more than three times Japan’s.”

“Our choice is Joe Biden,” he said. “Joe helped bring us back from a recession before, and he can do it again.”

Clinton also criticized Trump’s television appearances in which he has touted his response to the pandemic, as well as the president’s social media presence.

“If you want a president who spends hours a day watching TV and zapping people on social media, he’s your man,” Clinton said. “Denying, distracting, and demeaning works great if you’re trying to entertain and inflame. But in a real crisis, it collapses.”

“The Oval Office should be a command center, instead it’s a storm center,” Clinton said.

Former President Jimmy Carter, 95, and former first lady Rosalynn Carter, 93, praised Biden’s character and accomplishments but did not mention Trump. The pair offered only audio remarks that played over photos.

The former president noted his work with Biden over the years, calling him a “loyal and dedicated friend” who “understands that honesty and dignity are essential traits that determine not only our vision but our actions.”

“Joe has the experience, character, and decency to bring us together and restore America’s greatness,” he said. “We deserve a person with integrity and judgment, someone who is honest and fair, someone who is committed to what is best for the American people.”

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Former President Bill Clinton addresses the Democratic National Convention to talk about the dangers of President Trump and what Joe Biden offers.

USA TODAY

Biden formally secures nomination

Joe Biden formally secured enough Democratic delegates to become the party’s nominee to challenge Trump after a virtual roll call that included remarks from all 57 states and territories.

In a “Roll Call Across America,” activists and elected officials spoke in front a variety of backdrops, including a fire station in Connecticut, the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama or the Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, D.C.

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Presidential nominating conventions haven’t been contested for decades and Biden demonstrated he had enough support for the nomination months ago, making the roll call a formality.

During the state primaries and caucuses, Biden collected 2,687 delegates – more than twice the 1,073 earned by his closest rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a first-term congresswoman from New York who has become a progressive star, seconded the nomination of Sanders in remarks that hailed the Vermont senator but did not mention Biden. The nomination of Sanders, and remarks by Ocasio-Cortez, were largely procedural, a symbolic moment that has been featured at previous conventions to honor the candidate coming in second place. 

Opinion: Sanders is the MVP of the Democratic convention. We have to save our democracy from Trump.

Ocasio-Cortez outlined Sanders’ work toward goals such as “guaranteed health care, higher education, living wages, and labor rights for all people in the United States.”

Biden will formally accept the nomination in his convention speech Thursday evening.

When the roll call was completed, applause erupted, showing Democratic supporters across the nation on video clapping as Biden, seated in a library with his wife, Jill Biden, were greeted by mask-wearing supporters throwing confetti. 

“Thank you very, very much from the bottom of my heart,” a smiling Joe Biden told convention watchers. “Thank you all. It means the world to me and my family and I’ll see you Thursday.”

A viral moment comes full circle 

A security guard whose wholesome moments with Biden went viral last year marked one of the most touching moments of the evening when she got the opportunity to be the first person to officially nominate Biden for president. 

Jacquelyn Brittany met Biden when she escorted the former vice president at The New York Times for a meeting with its editorial board in December. As they were on an elevator, Brittany blurted out “I love you,” telling him that she hoped he won the primary race. The two posed for a photo before Biden left the elevator.

More: Security guard who blurted ‘I love you’ to Biden last year nominates him for president

DNC: Michelle Obama goes ‘high’, GOP’s John Kasich blasts Trump and other top moments from the DNC’s opening night 

“I take powerful people up on my elevator all the time. When they get off, they go to their important meetings. Me, I just head back to the lobby,” she said during the convention. “But in the short time I spent with Joe Biden, I could tell he really saw me, that he actually cared, that my life meant something to him. And I knew, even when he went into his important meeting, he’d take my story in there with him.”

She added that Biden had “room in his heart” for others and that the country has a long path forward. “That’s why I nominate my friend Joe Biden, as the next president of the United States,” she said. 

Brittany was joined by Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., and Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del., in nominating Biden before the night’s roll call.

Contributing: Yvonne Wingette Sanchez, John Fritze and Ledyard King

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Joe Biden garnered enough nominations to officially become the Democratic nominee for president.

USA TODAY

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Hertz talks

Hertz in Talks for Bankruptcy Loan After Shelving Stock Sale – TheStreet

Hertz Global Holdings  (HTZ) – Get Report is reportedly in talks for a bankruptcy loan to fund its business reorganization after the auto rental company suspended a sale of potentially worthless stock.

Hertz had put a planned $500 million stock sale on hold pending a review by the Securities and Exchange Commission after it said in a public filing the shares “could ultimately be worthless.”

With the stock deal shelved for now, Hertz is in discussions with top lenders to supply a financing package, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter. The bankruptcy loan could approach $1 billion.

Hertz, which has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic shutdown, filed with the SEC to sell $500 million of stock on earlier this week. On Wednesday SEC Chairman Jay Clayton told CNBC that the commission had “comments” about the controversial sale.

“In this particular situation we have let the company know that we have comments on their disclosure,” Clayton said. “In most cases when you let a company know that the SEC has comments on their disclosure, they do not go forward until those comments are resolved.”

Last week, Judge Mary Walrath of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware said that Hertz, which filed for Chapter 11 protection on May 22 with nearly $20 billion in debts, could raise as much as $1 billion through the sale of new shares.

Hertz told the court it would alert buyers of the new shares that common stock in the company “could ultimately be worthless” once its bankruptcy proceedings are concluded. 

The company received a delisting notice from the New York Stock Exchange on May 26.

Hertz did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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AstraZeneca talks

AstraZeneca in talks with Japan, Russia, Brazil and China on COVID-19 vaccine supplies – CEO – Reuters

AMSTERDAM, June 13 (Reuters) – AstraZeneca is in talks with Japan, Russia, Brazil and China about supply deals for its potential COVID-19 vaccine, its chief said on Saturday, as the British drugmaker prepares to publish the results of the first phase of tests.

The British drugs regulator has approved the start of Phase III of its tests on the vaccine after studies showed sufficient efficacy and safety, Chief Executive Pascal Soriot said on a call with reporters. (Reporting by Anthony Deutsch; Writing by Josephine Mason; Editing by Louise Heavens)

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Penney talks

JC Penney in talks to fund potential bankruptcy filing next week – CNBC

Robert Barnes | Getty Images

J.C. Penney is in talks to secure financing for bankruptcy as the coronavirus pandemic has devastated the American retail industry, people familiar with the matter tell CNBC. 

The Plano, Texas-based retailer skipped a $12 million interest payment on April 15, starting the clock on a 30-day grace period that could force it to file for bankruptcy as soon as May 15. 

 If J.C. Penney hits the May 15 deadline, it could opt to make the interest payment it owes, but the retailer skipped another $17 million payment Thursday night. The more money it has in bankruptcy, the more ability it has to execute its plan and survive.  

J.C. Penney is negotiating with its first-lien lenders, including H2 Capital, a “debtor in possession” loan of around to $300 million to $500 million, some of the people familiar with the matter said. It had originally hoped for as much as $1 billion in DIP, though that would have included existing debt being rolled over.

The company has also spoken to larger banks about bankruptcy financing, but DIP funds have been harder to come by than for other recent large-scale retail bankruptcies. While large banks contributed DIP to retailers like Toys R Us and Sears, they are less willing to extend such financing efforts now, particularly when they are not existing creditors, people familiar with the situation tell CNBC. As retailers from Macy’s to Nordstrom look to draw down their credit lines, banks must prioritize so that they are lending to those they are most confident can survive.

In its favor, J.C. Penney has an iconic brand and real estate throughout the country. It is buffered by $386 million of cash it had on hand as of February, as well as roughly $1.25 billion it drew from a credit line in March.

The size and nature of DIP financing that J.C. Penney is able to secure may set the tone for additional retail bankruptcies that are expected to come even as states begin to reopen their economies. Preppy retailer J. Crew and high-end department store Neiman Marcus filed for bankruptcy this week. Many more, including rural retail chain owner Stage Stores, are expected to follow suit. 

The pandemic has put the value of assets that retailers have typically used as collateral for financing, such as inventory, into question. There is uncertainty about when stores will reopen to the public and how much stores will compete on discounts to lure back shoppers.

The people requested anonymity because the information is confidential. A spokesperson for J.C. Penney declined to comment. 

Reuters first reported the DIP talks. 

Long-term struggles

J.C. Penney had 846 department stores as of February and employed roughly 90,000 full-time and part-time employees. It reported $10.7 billion in net sales in fiscal 2019, down 8.1% from the year prior.  

On Thursday, it announced it had “reaffirmed” its partnership with cosmetic chain Sephora, after the LMVH-backed company threatened to pull out of mini shops it had in 650 of J.C. Penney’s stores. 

Questions over J.C. Penney’s value come just a few decades after the company made itself a name as the destination for the middle class to do aspirational shopping for clothes and appliances a suburban person of means might want. In 1994, it had roughly 250 stores and generated in $20.4 billion in retail sales, with net income nearing $1 billion.

But Walmart’s growth in 1990s threatened J.C. Penney’s hold on suburban and rural communities. The Great Recession and a failed attempt at a turnaround led by Bill Ackman left it in the hole. It still carries the burden of a $2.25 billion loan it took out to shore up JC Penney’s finances in 2013.

The company brought in Jill Soltau, former CEO of Jo-Ann Stores in October 2018. Soltau had begun to try to revitalize J.C. Penney and bring it back to its roots by focusing on customer service, apparel and low prices.

Under Soltau, the retailer has been slowly whittling its store base, including announcing the closure of six stores in January. Analysts, though, have said J.C. Penney needs to close hundreds of stores to get its business back in good shape. 

CNBC’s Lauren Thomas contributed to this report 

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