Target real estate chief to retire

  • Article by: JANET MOORE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 21, 2014 - 9:35 AM

John Griffith spent 15 years expanding discounter’s footprint.

Griffith Attached is a headshot of John Griffith, executive vice president of property development, Target.

Target Corp. said Tuesday that John Grif­fith, a vet­er­an mem­ber of its ex­ec­u­tive team, will re­tire on May 31.

The im­pend­ing de­par­ture of Grif­fith, 52, as ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of prop­er­ty de­vel­op­ment comes as the Minneapolis-based re­tail­er re­tools its lead­er­ship slate fol­low­ing the fir­ing of Chair­man and CEO Gregg Steinhafel this month. News of Griffith’s retirement Tuesday was made separately from an announcement that Tony Fisher was leaving immediately as president of the company’s challenged Canadian operations.

In an interview, Griffith said the timing was right for him to step down. “I feel like the team we built here at Target is second to none, so I feel good about them moving forward. I’m still a young man and want to do different things.”

A long-standing mem­ber of the Twin Cities com­mer­cial real es­tate com­muni­ty, Grif­fith said he will continue to volunteer for a num­ber of civic pro­jects, par­tic­u­lar­ly those pro­mot­ing down­town Minneapolis. In re­tire­ment, Grif­fith will serve as a con­sult­ant on Tar­get’s en­gage­ment with eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment or­gan­i­za­tions in the Minneapolis area.

Griffith says he got involved in these efforts “because the downtown is where our headquarters is and we felt like it was so important to make sure team members had ... a clean, safe downtown with great transportation, cultural amenities and entertainment.”

As the Vikings sta­di­um de­bate played out at the Capitol in 2012, Grif­fith played a key role, pub­lic­ly and behind the scenes, in help­ing to lure the $1 billion pro­ject to down­town Minneapolis. He now serves on the Minnesota Sports Fa­cili­ties Authority, the public body over­see­ing con­struc­tion of the stadi­um on the site where the Met­ro­dome once stood.

He also chaired the ef­fort behind the Minneapolis Downtown Council’s 2025 Plan — an am­bi­tious blue­print released in 2011 that called for doub­ling downtown’s residential pop­u­la­tion to 70,000, cre­at­ing a sta­di­um dis­trict and in­creas­ing green space, among other goals. Oth­er ur­ban pro­jects he’s been in­volved with in­clude the $50 mil­lion over­haul of Nicollet Mall, which just received $21.5 million in state bonding money.

John Mul­li­gan, Target’s in­ter­im pres­i­dent and CEO, said in a state­ment, “The en­er­gy and en­thu­si­asm [Griffith] brought to his role helped Tar­get ex­pand our ge­o­graph­ic foot­print and cre­ate new store for­mats. Not only did John leave an im­pact on Tar­get but his pas­sion for the Twin Cities and ded­i­ca­tion to the pres­er­va­tion and en­hance­ment of down­town Minneapolis will be felt for years to come.”

Grif­fith joined Tar­get from Ryan Cos., the Minneapolis-based real es­tate firm, in 1999. The two com­panies have en­joyed a close re­la­tion­ship dat­ing back to 1966, when Ryan built the fourth Tar­get store in Bloomington, with many more stores fol­low­ing in en­su­ing years.

While at Ryan, Grif­fith was in­volved with the de­vel­op­ment of the pub­lic­ly sub­si­dized Tar­get store at 9th Street and Nicollet Mall, con­sid­ered a prototype for oth­er ur­ban Tar­get stores.

Dur­ing his 15 years with Tar­get, Grif­fith worked on new store proto­types and for­mats in­clud­ing PFresh, CityTarget and Tar­get Ex­press, as well as head­quar­ters build­ings world­wide, in­clud­ing those in India and Canada. When he joined Tar­get, the cheap-chic dis­count­er had 912 stores; the com­pany now has more than 1,900 in the Unit­ed States and Canada.

Sean Naugh­ton, an an­a­lyst with Piper Jaffray, not­ed that Grif­fith has led Tar­get’s real es­tate de­vel­op­ment for many years and has had a suc­cess­ful ca­reer with the com­pany. But these days, with fewer places to grow in the Unit­ed States and with no im­me­di­ate plans for more in­ter­na­tion­al ex­pan­sion out­side Canada, Tar­get is not as much of a real es­tate com­pany as it used to be. Instead, it is fo­cus­ing more on driv­ing same-store sales, he said.

Be­cause of the tim­ing of the an­nounce­ment, Griffith’s de­par­ture may be viewed as part of the re­tail­er’s stra­tegic shift.

“But I think it’s more of a func­tion of ‘Yes, there’s still going to be real es­tate op­por­tuni­ties to se­lec­tive­ly open up new doors with CityTargets and Target Express, but it’s not going to be the same type of ef­fort that the com­pany has been spear­head­ing in terms of store ex­pan­sion,’ ” he said.

When asked whether the prospect of a new CEO taking over was part of his consideration to retire, Griffith said, “That person will want to pick his own team, and that’s totally appropriate.”

The Colorado native said he will spend more time with his wife, Lisa, and three children, as well as biking and fly-fishing.

In an in­ter­nal memo to employees, Grif­fith said, ”Tar­get is a spe­cial place, filled with spe­cial peo­ple. Love what you do and love each oth­er. I will be cheer­ing you on from the side­lines.”

Staff writ­er Kavita Kumar con­tri­buted to this ­report.

Ja­net Moore • 612-673-7752

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  • John Griffith, executive vice president of property development for Target Corp., visited a Chicago building site in 2012. Target announced Tuesday that Griffith will retire May 31. He will keep volunteering with a number of civic projects.

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