Less than five months after Target announced a large-scale data breach that compromised the personal information of as many as 110 million customers, the retailer parted ways with its CEO. After acknowledging the incident in December 2013, the brand struggled to regain the trust of customers and shareholders as revenue and stock prices declined despite initial crisis-management efforts valued at $61 million. The situation ultimately resulted in the resignation of CEO, President, and Chairman Gregg Steinhafel in May 2014. The executive attributed the decision, in part, to “extensive discussions” with Target’s board of directors, which issued its own statement expressing gratitude for Mr. Steinhafel’s dedicated leadership.
Jason Hanold, who assists organizations in recruiting highly qualified human resources executives as a managing partner at Hanold Associates LLC, offered his professional insight on Target’s leadership change. He noted that Gregg Steinhafel’s departure was likely his own decision in reaction to the sheer magnitude of the data breach. Mr. Hanold commended Target and Mr. Steinhafel on the timing of the decision, noting that many organizations might have hastily responded to the data breach with a leadership change without taking adequate time to properly address the issue.
Mr. Steinhafel assumed the role of CEO in 2008 and continued to serve Target in an advisory capacity while CFO John Mulligan stepped in as interim CEO. Mr. Hanold acknowledged that Target’s “rich heritage and culture” would undoubtedly lead it to seek a new CEO from its internal talent pool. However, he also stated that the scope of the data breach necessitates seeking candidates outside of the company and advised recruiting someone from a prominent, admired brand such as Amazon or Starbucks. In July 2014, Target announced the appointment of new CEO Brian Cornell, a former executive at PepsiCo and Sam’s Club and the first Target CEO to hail from outside the company.