Apple 2.0

Covering the business that Steve Jobs built

What's wrong with this picture?

July 17, 2011: 7:04 PM ET

Hint: See the head shot, center row left, in the current "Apple Leadership" page

Source: Apple press info

Jean-Louis Gassée, who worked for Apple from 1981 to 1990 and once held Steve Jobs' job as head of Mac development, was planning to use the Apple Store's 10th anniversary last May as the theme for one of his always insightful Monday Note columns. But when the day came and went without an Apple-sized splash, he sensed something was wrong and held off.

What was wrong, Gassée now suggests, was the news that broke in the Wall Street Journal one month later: Ron Johnson, Apple's (AAPL) senior vice president, retail, was leaving to become CEO of J.C. Penney (JCP).

Why would the man who created the 325-store empire that was, according to a USA Today report last week, single-handedly responsible for 20% of U.S. retail growth in the first quarter of 2011, leave Apple?

In his latest Monday Note column, posted Sunday afternoon, Gassée suggests that Johnson was chaffing under Jobs' oversight and unrelenting search for ways to improve everything -- including the Apple Stores -- and must have finally felt, in Gassée's words, "disenfranchised."

Gassée also hints that although Johnson has been promised the CEO title at J.C Penney, he will be working for another strong-willed boss in Mike Ullman and might find himself disenfranchised once again. Having himself been tapped to lead Apple before being forced out, like Steve Jobs, by John Sculley, Gassée knows what that feels like.

To read Gassée's take on the Apple Store's "non-celebration," click here.

Note to Apple PR: It might be time to update your Executive Profiles page.

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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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