Apple Hires International Recruiter to Replace Ron Johnson

Apple has hired an outside executive recruiting firm, Egon Zehnder International, to help the company replace outgoing retail executive Ron Johnson. The firm specializes in recruiting around the world, and The Wall Street Journal reported that Apple may be looking to find someone with more international experience to help the company expand its retail presence in other parts of the world.

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Ron Johnson, Apple’s current senior vice president for retail, announced in June that he had accepted a gig to be CEO of venerable retailer J.C. Penney. Mr. Johnson joined the board of the department store chain on August 1st, and will officially take the CEO title on November 1st, though he won’t assume all CEO responsibilities until February 1st, 2012.

Mr. Johnson is credited with building Apple’s fabulously successful fleet of retail stores around the globe. Today, Apple has one of the highest profit retail operations in the U.S., especially when measured by profit-per-square-foot. In recent years the company has been focusing on building its presence in other countries, including four major stores in China, and flagship stores in Japan, England, France, and other large cities.

According to The Journal’s unnamed sources, Apple CEO Steve Jobs was behind the move the work with an outside recruiter, in part because the company is looking for someone with experience outside the U.S. Apple has a track record of keeping tasks such as hiring executives in-house, making the move an unusual one.

Egon Zehnder International has 63 offices in 37 countries, and The Journal reported that it was the top executive recruiter in 2010 based on global revenue.