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Apple retail chief headed to J.C. Penney

The man behind Apple retail stores, Ron Johnson, has been named president and CEO of J.C. Penney's 1,100 stores.

Ron Johnson Apple

The man responsible for Apple's iconic retail stores is leaving the company.

Ron Johnson is becoming president and CEO of department store chain J.C. Penney. The Wall Street Journal first reported the move this morning.

Johnson, 52, will officially take the CEO mantle on November 1. He joins J.C. Penney's board of directors beginning August 1, the retail chain said today.

Apple confirmed Johnson's departure to AllThingsD and said the company is "actively recruiting for his replacement."

"I've always dreamed of leading a major retail company as CEO, and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to help J. C. Penney re-imagine what I believe to be the single greatest opportunity in American retailing today, the Department Store," Johnson said today in a statement.

As a show of confidence in his new employer's long-term potential, Johnson will put $50 million of his own money in J.C. Penney stock, according to a statement from the retailer.

Johnson came to Apple in January 2000 from Target, where he was vice president of merchandising.

At Apple he served as senior vice president of retail. Under his watch, the company has opened 320 stores, with 40 more planned before the end of this year. In 2010 Apple stores did $9 billion in sales worldwide.

In Apple's most recent earnings call, the company said that more than 1 billion visitors have stepped foot inside its retail stores since their debut in 2001.

Last month Apple celebrated the 10-year anniversaryof the opening of the first Apple Store in Tyson's Corner, Va.

By contrast, J.C. Penney opened its first store in 1902. According to its site, J.C. Penney has more than 1,100 stores across the U.S. and reported $17.8 billion in revenue last year.

Updated at 9:45 a.m. PT with statements from J.C. Penney's and Johnson, at 9:30 a.m. PT with confirmation of his departure, and at 9:23 a.m. PT with background information on Apple stores.