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May 05. 2014 10:54AM

Target CEO stepping down in wake of devastating cyber attack

BOSTON - Target Corp Chief Executive and Chairman Gregg Steinhafel is leaving in the wake of the devastating data breach late last year that hurt profits, shook customer confidence in the No. 3 U.S. retailer and prompted congressional hearings.

"After extensive discussions, the board and Gregg Steinhafel have decided that now is the right time for new leadership at Target," Target's board said in a statement released on Monday.

It named Chief Financial Officer John Mulligan as interim president and CEO and Roxanne Austin, a current member of Target's board of directors, as interim non-executive chair of the board.

Target shares were down 0.9 percent in premarket trading.

Target had announced in December it was the victim of a cyber attack that resulted in the theft of at least 40 million payment card numbers and 70 million other pieces of customer data.

Since then Mulligan has been the company's chief spokesman on the issue, testifying at several Congressional hearings. He was grilled for details about Target's security operations, how it learned of the breach and how quickly it notified the public.

Brian S. Sozzi, chief executive & chief equities strategist of Belus Capital Advisors, said he thought the change, which ended a 35-year career for an executive who had been CEO since 2008, was a few months overdue.

"I think the news today reflects Target's initiative to completely get behind this issue," he said.

Target said it has hired executive recruiting firm Korn Ferry to help the board find a new CEO. Spokeswoman Dustee Jenkins said the board will look both inside the retail industry and outside the sector for candidates.


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