Target CEO Out After Data Breach, Canadian Expansion Misstep

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After 35 years with the company, Greg Steinhafel is stepping down. His career will be marred by a huge breach of customer data. The hacking scandal wasn't the only factor that led to the shakeup.


Target has been through a lot of turmoil these last few months. Of course, there was that cyberattack on customer credit card data - one of the largest in retail history. But that's not Target's biggest problem or the only reason its chief executive announced he was stepping down yesterday.

From Minnesota Public Radio, Annie Baxter explains.

ANNIE BAXTER, BYLINE: Late last year, cyber thieves snagged the credit and debit account data of at least 40 million Target customers. Sounds pretty bad, right? But apparently, it's not instant grounds for firing a CEO.

HENRY DAVIDOWITZ: The data breach is happening at least 20 retail companies. And the CEO's are not being fired over it.

BAXTER: That's retail analyst Howard Davidowitz. He says Target's CEO, Gregg Steinhafel, probably could've survived the data breach alone. But he and his team also botched Target's entry into Canada, opening too many stores too fast.

DAVIDOWITZ: I don't think any CEO can survive a one-two punch like that, nor should they.

BAXTER: The Canada snafu cost Target nearly a billion dollars last year alone. The cyberattack? Not clear yet. Some analysts estimate it will cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars.

Avivah Litan is a security analyst with Gartner Research. Litan says it appears that as few as 10 percent of the customers affected by the data breach said yes to Target's free credit monitoring offer.

AVIVAH LITAN: If everybody was really paranoid about this, they would definitely take them up on that offer.

BAXTER: Next year, Target will offer a new kind of payment technology that's supposed to be less vulnerable to data theft.

For NPR News, I'm Annie Baxter in St. Paul.

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