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Target takes a Mulligan: Meet the interim President and CEO

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Until today, Target's Chief Financial Officer John Mulligan was best known for wearing a chagrined expression as he sat before a congressional panel and was grilled about the data breach the rocked the retailer. In a soundbite that got enormous play, Mulligan said Target was “deeply sorry” for the effect on customers.

On Monday, Mulligan stepped into the role of interim president and CEO of the Minneapolis-based discounter following the abrupt resignation of CEO, President and Chairman Gregg Steinhafel.

The Business Journal pulled together a backgrounder on Mulligan. He made about $4.5 million as chief financial officer in 2012, the first and most recent year that Target disclosed his pay in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Steinhafel made nearly $20 million that year. The retailer is due to update executive pay for 2013 any day now.

Mulligan was promoted to his current position in 2012 after rising through the executive ranks during his 16 year tenure with Target. Previously he had been senior vice president of finance. He got his undergraduate degree in electrical and electronics engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1988 and his masters of business administration from the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management in 1996. According to his corporate bio, Mulligan also serves on the Finance Committee for Habitat for Humanity, and the University of Wisconsin Business School Dean’s Advisory Board.

Dave Brennan, co-director of the Institute for Retailing Excellence at the University of St. Thomas, told the Business Journal that Mulligan's interim appointment might become permanent. “This may well be a test drive for him in terms of seeing what he can do,” Brennan said.

Target has traditionally drawn its top boss from its corps of executives, but the company has hired a search firm and may seek an external candidate to lead the company for the first time. The Star Tribune has named several executives who are being mentioned as being on the short list to be Steinhafel's permanent successor.

They include Glenn K. Murphy, who is currently the CEO of Gap. Murphy has also been CEO and chairman of Shoppers Drug Mart, Canada’s largest drug store chain. He also spent 14 years at Loblaw Companies, Canada’s largest food distributor and supermarket chain. Bill Simon, head of Wal-Mart’s U.S. division, came to the No. 1 discount retailer from Brinker International, the Dallas-based restaurant company. And Alan Mulally, who is CEO of Ford Motor Co. Mulally went to Ford in 2006 from Boeing and is retiring next month. At 68, he may not want another major challenge. "Even so, he was considered a potential successor to Steve Ballmer at Microsoft and analysts and journalists who handicap Mulally’s next move speculate he may seek another high-profile post," the newspaper writes.

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