It hasn’t happened overnight, but Chief Executive Brian Cornell has remade his inner circle at Target Corp. headquarters.
The latest change came Monday with the announcement of the immediate departure of Tina Tyler, who was elevated in 2011 by Cornell’s predecessor, Gregg Steinhafel, to be head of stores for the Minneapolis-based retailer.
Tyler worked at Target for nearly three decades, working her way up from a store employee into the highest echelons of the company’s leadership. In addition to severance, Tyler will be paid $3 million if she agrees not to work for a Target competitor for the next three years, according to a company filing.
Cornell named Janna Potts, another longtime Target executive most recently in human resources, to succeed Tyler. In the role of chief stores officer, she will be responsible for store operations at Target’s 1,800 stores and will lead a team that includes roughly 300,000 store employees.
“It’s a leadership change,” said Molly Snyder, a company spokeswoman. “We believe that Janna is the right person to lead our stores at this time in our transformation.”
With the appointment of Potts, five of the 10 executives who make up Cornell’s top leadership team are either new hires or were promoted since he took the company’s reins in August 2014.
Some analysts expected Cornell, as Target’s first outside chief executive, to quickly overhaul of the top ranks. Instead, the leadership team stayed intact for several months as he considered difficult choices. Early last year, he decided to close the company’s 133 stores in Canada and lay off thousands of headquarters employees.
At a meeting in New York last March, Cornell directly addressed the lingering questions over whether he would overhaul his team, saying he felt he had a strong group but would hold them accountable for executing on the company’s plans.
“Some guys come in and they cut right away,” said Brian Yarbrough, an analyst with Edward Jones. “Others are more calculated and wait to get to know the company better. I don’t think there’s a right or a wrong way, but Brian definitely took his time with it.”
Yarbrough added that Tyler’s departure doesn’t necessarily signal that Target’s holiday sales came in lower than expected or any other major problems.
“I don’t think it’s a bad break,” he said. “She’s getting a pretty nice severance. … They’re probably just saying we’re going to try something new. She’s been there for awhile.”
Tyler is the second high-profile female executive to leave Target under Cornell. Kathee Tesija, the company’s No. 2 leader, stepped down as executive vice president of merchandising last June, becoming a consultant to the firm. She has not yet been replaced.
Tesija and Tyler were Target’s highest-paid women executives in 2014 and among the highest-paid women in Minnesota that year, earning more than $3.5 million each.
At the same time, Cornell has also added two senior female executives to his team — Jackie Rice, Target’s chief risk and compliance officer, and Cathy Smith, the company’s chief financial officer, who was hired in August. Last year, he also brought in Mike McNamara to fill the role of chief information officer to replace Bob DeRodes, who retired.
Potts will report to John Mulligan, whom Cornell promoted last year to the position of chief operating officer.
Potts joined Target in 1989, working initially for Mervyn’s, the apparel-oriented store chain Target later sold.
She became senior vice president for human resources in January last year after spending 10 months in 2014 as operations chief of Target’s ill-fated Canada unit.
“As we continue to focus on offering our guests a seamless, uniquely Target shopping experience, we believe Janna’s strategic leadership, expertise in managing complex organizations, and her dedication to the team make her well suited for the opportunities ahead,” Mulligan said in a statement.