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Hedge fund manager Ackman says mistakes made in JCPenney turnaround

(Reuters) – Hedge fund manager William Ackman is turning up the heat on the man he handpicked to turn around struggling retailer JCPenney.

The “criticism is deserved,” Ackman said on Friday of Ron Johnson, the former Apple executive who has been tasked with overhauling the staid retail chain and who has come under fire as the stock price has plummeted 27.6 percent in the first quarter.

While Ackman has long been a public cheerleader for Johnson, often saying that he was a doing a great job, he tempered his normally upbeat comments on Friday at an investment conference sponsored by Thomson Reuters in Boston.

Speaking bluntly, Ackman, who sits on the JC Penney board and whose $12 billion Pershing Square Capital Management is the company’s largest shareholder, said big mistakes have been made remaking the 110 year-old retail brand.

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