Ackman confident JC Penney CEO can turn around company: CNBC

Fri Jan 25, 2013 2:24pm EST

Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Pershing Square Capital Management LP Bill Ackman speaks during the Sohn Investment Conference in New York, May 16, 2012. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS)

Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Pershing Square Capital Management LP Bill Ackman speaks during the Sohn Investment Conference in New York, May 16, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Eduardo Munoz (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS)

(Reuters) - Activist investor Bill Ackman said on Friday that he was confident in the ability of JC Penney Inc (JCP.N) Chief Executive Officer Ron Johnson to turn around the company.

Ackman, whose Pershing Square Capital Management hedge fund has taken a long position in JC Penney, told CNBC that the company would "make progress" under Johnson's leadership.

He added, however, that Johnson might be the wrong choice for chief executive if the company does not recover in three years.

"If three years from now, Ron Johnson is still struggling to turn around JC Penney, he's probably the wrong guy," Ackman said.

Shortly after his comments on JC Penney, Ackman feuded with activist investor Carl Icahn about a nearly 10-year-old investment the two had agreed upon.

They also feuded over Ackman's publicly announced "short" of, or bet against, the shares of weight-loss and nutrition product company Herbalife Inc. (HLF.N).

Meanwhile, shares of Herbalife surged after Icahn said that Ackman, by going public with his big short on the nutritional supplement company, would cause the "mother of all short squeezes" in the stock.

A short squeeze is when short sellers are forced to cover their position, a move that pushes a stock higher.

(Reporting by Sam Forgione; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)