JCPenney has named Jill Soltau as its CEO

The company announced on Tuesday that Soltau will take over as its CEO starting on October 15. JCPenney has been without a leader since Marvin Ellison left in May to take the top job at Lowe’s.

Soltau, 51, will become the 25th woman to lead a Fortune 500 company, according to Fortune magazine. He will become Penney’s fifth CEO in the past decade.

He will have a base salary of $1.4 million with a $6 million signing bonus and will be eligible for annual performance bonuses.

In a sign that Soltau is allowed to start on Wall Street, shares rose 10% in extended trading.

Soltau will face a daunting task: turning around JCPenney ( JCP ), a former retail heavyweight that has fallen more than 50% this year to close to $1.50 per share. Penney is currently without a CFO. Jeffrey Davis resigned last week after 14 months on the job.
The challenges at JCPenney are formidable. It is over $4 trillion in debt and has only made a profit in two quarters of the last four years. Penney lost $101 million in its most recent quarter.
JCPenney’s decline comes as department store rivals Nordstrom ( JWN ) , Kohl’s ( KSS ) and Macy’s ( M ) have all demonstrated their ability to reinvent their businesses for the age of digital shopping.

Soltau will have to make tough decisions about Penney’s store footprint. The company has 860 stores, hundreds of which are located in rogue areas. JCPenney also stocks plenty of clothing in its warehouses and stores.

Penney has been looking for a leader with merchandising experience to help decide which brands to sell in stores.

“We wanted someone with a wealth of apparel and merchandising experience and thought Jill was the perfect fit,” board director Paul Brown said in a news release.

Soltau took over from Joanne in 2015. He has also held positions at Shopko, Sears and Kohl’s.

The selection of Penney Soltau indicates that the company wants to break away from Ellison’s strategy.

Ellison was a former Home Depot executive who led Penney into the appliance business. But his tenure had mixed results: washers and dryers weren’t huge draws for customers and the clothing line suffered.

Penney believes its core shoppers are middle-aged women. Earlier this month, Penney introduced Artesia, a chic new women’s brand under $30.

CNNMoney’s Julia Carpenter contributed to this story.