Target's Biggest Problem May Be Target's Board

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Target's (TGT) board hasn't solved its problems by forcing out Chairman and CEO Gregg Steinhafel.

That's because of the board's general passivity and its dependence on a few key hires to drive change.

The Wall Street Journal estimated Steinhafel's lovely parting gifts were worth $37.8 million, while USA Today guessed he will eventually get $55 million or more, based on past policies. The announcement of his departure came in a terse press release.

If that sounds like a lot of money Steinhafel's predecessor, Robert Ulrich, had accumulated deferred pay and pension benefits worth more than $140 million when he left in 2007.

Those numbers must be going over well in Target's employee ranks, where many people earn minimum wage. The National Employment Law Project identified Target as the fourth largest low-wage employer in the U.S., with a total workforce of 365,000.


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The company also paid big last week for its new chief information officer, Bob DeRodes. His career includes top positions at both major credit processors such as First Data, stints advising federal agencies on security and a seat on the board at NCR (NCR).

DeRodes' predecessor, Beth Jacob, had resigned in March as Target struggled to deal with fallout from the December breach in which data on 40 million accounts was stolen.

Target's board includes some big names, such as Wells Fargo (WFT) CEO John Stumpf, but with Steinhafel's resignation there are no retailers and no insiders.

Most spend their days doing good deeds, such as Anney Mulcahy, the former Xerox (XRX) CEO who now chairs Save the Children, and developer Calvin Darden, former chairman of the Atlanta Beltline. They include former Yahoo! (YHOO) COO Henrique De Castro and former Colorado Senator Ken Salazar.

Chief Financial Officer John Mulligan has been placed in temporary charge as CEO, and former Move Networks CEO Roxanne Austin is temporary board chair, but until someone is hired, Target has a void where retail leadership should be.

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