Steinhafel out, Target seeks new CEO

The search is under way for a new CEO at Target following the revelation Monday morning that Gregg Steinhafel was no longer chairman president and CEO effective immediately.

On an interim basis, Target CFO John Mulligan will serve as president and CEO and current board member Roxanne S. Austin will serve as non-executive board chair. To advise the board on its search for a new CEO the firm of Korn Ferry was retained.

Steinhafel’s departure follows a massive and costly data breach during the height of the 2013 holiday season that also led to the early March departure of CIO Beth Jacob. Steinhafel also oversaw Target’s entry into Canada, which has proven more costly than planned and failed to deliver anticipated sales. A statement from the board expressed gratitude for Steinhafel’s significant contributions, but noted that now is the right time for new leadership at Target.

“We believe his passion for the team and relentless focus on the guest have established Target as a leader in the retail industry,” according to the board statement. “Gregg has created a culture that fosters innovation and supports the development of new ideas. Under his leadership, the company has not only enhanced its ability to execute, but has broadened its strategic horizons. He also led the company through unprecedented challenges, navigating the financial recession, reacting to challenges with Target’s expansion into Canada, and successfully defending the company through a high-profile proxy battle. Most recently, Gregg led the response to Target’s 2013 data breach. He held himself personally accountable and pledged that Target would emerge a better company.”

Steinhafel touched on many of those same points in a letter of resignation dated May 5 that was made publicly available.

“Looking back on my time as CEO, I’m particularly proud of the gains we’ve made by introducing fresh food in our stores, unveiling new store formats, enhancing our REDcard credit and debit program, expanding internationally and forging ahead into the digital space,” Steinhafel wrote. “Target has also faced its share of difficulties, from the worst recession in our lifetime, to a high profile proxy content and most recently a slow start in Canada and the 2013 data breach. Despite these challenges, our team has been committed to doing right by our guests and driving our business forward.”

Steinhafel also indicated that now is a good time to make a senior leadership change.

“The last several months have tested Target in unprecedented ways. From the beginning, I have been committed to ensuring Target emerges from the data breach a better company, more focused than ever on delivering for our guests. We have already begun taking a number of steps to further enhance data security, putting the right people, processes and systems in place. With several key milestones behind us, now is the right time for new leadership at Target.”


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