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Cornell unlikely to be long-term Target solution


Brian Cornell’s tenure as Target’s chairman and CEO begins on August 12. Don’t expect it to last long if his track record at other recent employers is any indication.

Cornell brings to Target an impressive roster of C-level positions at big name companies — PepsiCo, Sam’s Club, Michael’s, Safeway — but the 55-year-old executive didn’t stick around for long at any of them.

His most recent job as CEO of PepsiCo Americas Foods lasted roughly two years. Prior to that, he served as president and CEO of Sam’s Club for nearly three years from April 2009 until January 2012, and resigned under the auspices of wanting to return to the Northeastern U.S. to spend more time with his family.

Prior to Sam’s, Cornell was CEO of arts and crafts retailer Michael’s Stores from 2007 to early 2009 and prior to that he spent roughly three years at Safeway from 2004 to 2007 as EVP and chief marketing officer. Cornell’s bio also shows that he served in senior leadership roles at Tropicana, later acquired by PepsiCo, as well as PepsiCo from 1999 to 2004.

Another indication that Cornell may be a relatively short-term solution at Target relates to the title he wasn’t given at the company. Cornell is chairman and CEO. His predecessor Gregg Steinhafel also served as president. When Steinhafel left unexpectedly in early May the board, deficient in its succession planning obligation to shareholders, was left flat-footed with no immediate replacement. CFO John Mulligan filled in on an interim basis until Target lured Cornell away from PepsiCo. Cornell will have the opportunity in the coming months perhaps to name a president — someone who can oversee merchandising, operations and marketing — who could also serve as a successor when, or if, he decides to move on after a few years.

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