Target names PepsiCo executive as its next CEO

  • Updated: July 31, 2014 - 7:17 AM

PepsiCo executive Brian Cornell is Target’s choice to replace Gregg Steinhafel.

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Brian Cornell

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Target’s search for a new chief executive came to an end Thursday when it for the first time chose an outsider to lead the marquee Minneapolis-based retailer.

PepsiCo executive Brian Cornell is Target’s choice to replace Gregg Steinhafel. Steinhafel was ousted in May as the company struggled under the weight of missed sales expectations, a rocky expansion into Canada, and its massive data breach.

“As we seek to aggressively move Target forward and establish the company as a top omnichannel retailer, we focused on identifying an extraordinary leader who could bring vision, focus and a wealth of experience to Target’s transformation,” said Roxanne S. Austin, interim non-executive chair of the board. “The Board is confident that Brian’s diverse and broad experience in retail and consumer products as well as his passion for leading high-performing teams will propel Target forward.”

Cornell, 55, is CEO of PepsiCo Americas Foods, dealing with food and snack brands such as Quaker, Tropicana and Gatorade. Before he joined PepsiCo in March 2012, he was president and CEO of Sam’s Club, part of Wal-Mart Stores, and also has experience with the Safeway grocery chain and arts-and-crafts retailer Michaels. He also has ties to the Twin Cities as a director at Polaris Industries since November 2012.

“I am honored and humbled to join Target as the first CEO hired from outside the company.  I am committed to empowering this talented team to realize its full potential, lead change and strengthen the love guests have for this brand,” Cornell said in a released statement. “As we create the Target of tomorrow, I will focus on our current business performance in both the U.S. and Canada and on how we accelerate our omnichannel transformation.”

In replacing Steinhafel, Target’s board said it had hired a search firm to find the new CEO, only the company’s fourth since 1984.

Cornell is scheduled to be in Minneapolis on Thursday to meet with company leaders, and he plans to move to the Twin Cities and begin work Aug. 12.

Target shares finished at $61.38 per share on Wednesday. They have fallen 3 percent since the start of the 2014.

Steinhafel was fired in May after nearly six years as CEO and five as chairman.

Steinhafel, a 35-year Target veteran, guided the firm out of the 2008 economic downturn but did nothing to shake up its plodding, insular culture, which became increasingly visible in its difficulties with new digital initiatives and an expansion in Canada.

A data breach that went undiscovered for three weeks late last year, exposing financial information of tens of millions of customers to cyberthieves, reinforced Target’s hidebound image.

In the months since Steinhafel’s departure, acting CEO John Mulligan has shaken up the executive ranks by appointing new leaders for the Canada business, a chief technology officer and a data security chief. He also moved the company’s top executives onto one floor at the firm’s downtown headquarters building to improve communication.

“We don’t have any blinders on about the issues in our business,” Mulligan, who was Target’s chief financial officer under Steinhafel, said in late May when the firm announced its latest results. “We’re going to move very quickly.”

Cornell becomes the fourth CEO of Target since the early 1980s when the business became the biggest operating unit of the then-Dayton Hudson Corp. and its founding family, the Daytons, ended their involvement. Ken Macke led the firm from 1981 to 1994. Bob Ulrich led it from 1994 to 2008, when he was succeeded by Steinhafel.

Staff and wire reports

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