Target Replaces CEO Steinhafel Following Massive Holiday Breach

By Dow Jones Business News, 

By Paul Ziobro

Target Corp. replaced Chief Executive Gregg Steinhafel on Monday, removing a 35-year "lifer" who won plaudits for his merchandising ability but whose tenure was marred by a massive data breach over the holidays.

The embarrassing computer attack and weak sales at a critical time shined a harsher light on other stumbles under Mr. Steinhafel's six years as CEO, including a money losing expansion into Canada and a persistent weakness in traffic as shoppers moved online.

Mr. Steinhafel's resignation leaves a void at the top of one of the largest U.S. retailers at a time of deep change in shopping habits, a weak economic recovery, especially among low-income shoppers, and questions over whether internal failures at Target made it an easy target for the data thieves.

Mr. Steinhafel, 59 years old, will step down immediately and be replaced on an interim basis by Chief Financial Officer John Mulligan while Target seeks a new chief, the company said. Roxanne Austin, a current board member, will take over Mr. Steinhafel's chairman role, also on an interim basis.

Target spokeswoman Dustee Jenkins said Mr. Steinhafel's decision to step down was just made recently after extensive discussions.

Target's board has been meeting monthly since the data breach, where 40 million credit and debit cards and personal information of 70 million people was stolen, was disclosed in mid-December. The last meeting was two weeks ago, Ms. Jenkins said.

"The last several months have Tested Target in unprecedented ways," Mr. Steinhafel said in a letter to Target's board Monday, adding that the company has already taken steps to improve its data security.

Write to Paul Ziobro at

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This article appears in: Technology

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