Target Taps PepsiCo Exec Brian Cornell as CEO

Seeks new leadership in wake of data breach

Target has tapped former PepsiCo executive Brian Cornell as its new CEO, the Wall Street Journal reported. The appointment marks the first time the retailer, which traditionally promotes from within, has hired an outsider to lead the company.

Cornell will take the reins at a time when Target is facing tremendous setbacks. Consumer confidence in the retailer remains shaky after last year’s data breach, in which hackers stole personal and financial data from as many as 110 million people. (It’s believed the breach was the main impetus behind the May departure of Cornell’s predecessor, Gregg W. Steinhafel.)

Cornell will also have to deal with the fallout of Target’s mostly disappointing — if not downright embarrassing — expansion into Canada last year. In its first effort to expand beyond the U.S., the retailer attempted to open more than 100 stores in a matter of months, but ran into massive inventory issues that left its new customer base unimpressed and lost $941 million in the process.

The chain’s e-commerce business is weak, according to the New York Times, with “only 2 to 3 percent of its sales generated online” — yet another weakness that Cornell will have to address.

Cornell’s impressive CV includes tenures at PepsiCo, Sam’s Club, Michaels, and Safeway. At PepsiCo, he led the company’s food business at a time when soda sales in the U.S. are on the decline, and his division, according to the New York Times, “was responsible for much of the company’s success.” Before that, he served as chief executive as Sam’s Club from 2009 to 2012, during which time the member-only retailer’s saw a growth in sales. He was considered a contender for the chief executive position at Wal-Mart (Sam’s Club’s parent company), but that job went to Doug McMillon, who took charge this year.

Cornell’s appointment is only the most salient example of a larger executive suite shuffle at Target. After the March departure of CIO and evp for technology services, Beth M. Jacob, the company has hired a new CIO, Bob De Rodes, as well as a new chief information security officer, Brad Maiorino — both from outside. In addition, Target Canada president Tony Fisher was let go in May.