Case | HBS Case Collection | June 2009 (Revised January 2011)

Target Corporation: Ackman versus the Board

by Krishna G. Palepu, Suraj Srinivasan and James Weber


After 15 years of great performance, Target's faltering performance during an economic downturn led an activist shareholder to initiate a proxy fight. Target Corporation, the second largest discount store retailer in the U.S., had competed successfully against industry leader Wal-Mart for years by promoting an upscale discount shopping experience in comparison to Wal-Mart's focus on low prices. This strategy worked well for Target in good economic times. The economic crisis of 2008–2009, however, caused shoppers to abandon Target in favor of Wal-Mart. In the spring of 2009, one of Target's largest shareholders initiated a proxy fight to place his five director nominees on the board. Target won the proxy fight, but still faced questions about whether it had a strategy that could work in both good times and bad.

Keywords: Financial Crisis; Investment Activism; Governing and Advisory Boards; Business and Shareholder Relations; Business Strategy; Value; Retail Industry;


Palepu, Krishna G., Suraj Srinivasan, and James Weber. "Target Corporation: Ackman versus the Board." Harvard Business School Case 109-010, June 2009. (Revised January 2011.)