The genius behind Apple's successful retail venture will head to JC Penny in an attempt to recreate the magic at the ailing department store.

Ron Johnson, Apple's senior vice president of retail, will head up JC Penny from November 1, the store said on Tuesday, taking the helm from Myron Ullman who will become executive chairman of the board.

The rare poaching of a top executive from Apple was kick-started by activist investors William Ackman of Pershing Square Capital Management and Steven Roth of Vornado Realty Trust.

I've always dreamed of leading a major retail company as CEO, and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to help JC Penney re-imagine what I believe to be the single greatest opportunity in American retailing today, the Department Store, Johnson said in a statement.

I have tremendous confidence in JC Penney's future and look forward to working with Mike Ullman, the executive board, and the company's 150,000 associates to transform the way America shops.

The duo suggested bringing Johnson after it amassed 26 percent of J.C. Penney's stock last year.

As part of the package, Penney will give Johnson restricted stock worth $50 million, which replaced the value of the equity award that Apple gave him that were due to vest on March 24, 2012. The new Penney restricted stock vests on January 27, 2012.

The move is a coup for J.C. Penney, a middle-of-the-road chain of 1,100 department stores.

Total sales last year reached $17.8 billion, up 1.2% from 2009 though still well below its pre-recession levels. The company's stock jumped more than 17% after the announcement.

Apple is actively recruiting to replace Johnson, it told media outlets.