“Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!” Most people who have seen The Wizard of Oz remember that line from the film, and some would say that when Ron Johnson was CEO of J.C. Penney Company, Inc. (NYSE:JCP), it was just like that.

J.C. Penney

One of activist investor Bill Ackman’s biggest complaints about Johnson’s leadership at J.C. Penney Company, Inc. (NYSE:JCP) was the fact that he chose not to move to Texas. Instead, he worked from his home in California and commuted by private jet to Texas weekly.

Messages For J.C. Penney Employees From Afar

Now the Huffington Post’s Kim Bhasin reports that as Johnson introduced sweeping changes to the aging retail chain, he sent regular internal broadcasts to employees which made him seem distant. That’s according to insiders at the retail chain.

Insiders told Bhasin that every 25 days, workers at all 1,100 stores in the chain had to go into rooms to view the video addresses sent from Johnson. They said most of the broadcasts were referred to as some kind of celebration of another major milestone in the company under his leadership. For example, one episode was called, “Ron Johnson’s 50th Day at J.C. Penney,” and another was entitled, “Ron Johnson’s 100th Day at J.C. Penney.” Many of the addresses were taped at Johnson’s home in California, although some were taped at the J.C. Penney Prototype store in Dallas.

J.C. Penney Insiders’ View Of Johnson’s Messages

In his video messages, Johnson would talk about progress that he said was happening at J.C. Penney Company, Inc. (NYSE:JCP), although the insiders who spoke to Huffington Post said most didn’t believe what he said because of how their stores were declining.

Many employees at the chain said they saw Johnson’s messages as simply his style of management, and Bhasin called him “some sort of retail Wizard of Oz.” Insiders said many workers didn’t even take Johnson seriously and often didn’t even absorb the messages he left in the videos.

Of course the Wizard of Oz reference is about the character in the 1939 Wizard of Oz film (yes, it was a book before that). When we finally meet the wizard at the end of the story, we find out he was actually an average man hiding behind a curtain and using a machine to make himself look bigger and more powerful than he really was.