J.C. Penney Company, Inc. (NYSE:JCP) has been struggling to turn things around in recent years, and now the activist investor who is attempting to do just that has made some surprising comments about CEO Ron Johnson’s time there.

jcpenney logo

The news comes less than a month after a spokesperson for the department store chain dismissed rumors that Johnson would resign after the company’s dismal fourth quarter earnings report in February.

Speaking at a conference sponsored by Thomson Reuters in Boston, Bill Ackman said Johnson’s time at J.C. Penney Company, Inc. (NYSE:JCP) was “something close to a disaster.” Ackman’s Pershing Square Management is the retail chain’s largest shareholder, and Ackman is a member of its board.

Johnson was the man Ackman himself selected to turn the company around, and he admitted that turning it around was going to be very difficult. He also said that Johnson was working very hard at doing that, but unfortunately, mistakes were made and the large amount of criticism Johnson has received since he took the help “is deserved.”

Reuters reporters Svea Herbst-Bayliss and Katya Wachtel covered the investment conference, and they point out that J.C. Penney was once known for drawing in customers using coupons and big sales. But Johnson changed things around and went for a business model based on everyday low prices.

According to Ackman, Johnson didn’t need to change the company’s business model, and one of the biggest mistakes made under Johnson’s time at the company was “too much change too quickly without testing what the impact would be.”

As of the moment of this writing, Shares of J.C. Penney Company, Inc. (NYSE:JCP) were up 3.45 percent.