Make or Break

Leaders whose organizations are at a critical juncture and whose choices in the coming year will have a decisive role in future success.
Make or Break

Melodie Bahan
Executive Director
Minnesota Film and TV Board

While the state agency responsible for drawing television, film and commercial shoots has had some success in the past, most recently with the Woody Harrelson vehicle Wilson, 2017 wasn’t as kind. Legislators dedicated only $1 million to the nonprofit’s Snowbate fund, which offers up to a 25 percent reimbursement to approved film projects. Given the large budget of a feature film, Hollywood will be less inclined to shoot in Minnesota, at least compared with previous years when Snowbate’s budget was multiple millions. Now Bahan must convince filmmakers that Minnesota has more to offer than incentive money or face the possible irrelevancy of the organization she runs.


Brian Cornell
Target Corp.

Brian Cornell’s tenure at Target has seen the retailer muddling through a half-decade of tepidly optimistic quarterly earnings reports followed by disappointing ones. Now, Cornell is betting the farm on a $7 billion investment that includes store facelifts and an expansion of the small-format stores Target is opening in urban centers and near college campuses. Can he improve the cheap-chic retailer’s image and bottom line, while fending off behemoth Amazon? It’s too soon to tell, but 2018 may be the year he figures it out, or gets his walking papers because he didn’t.

Medaria Arradondo
Minneapolis Police Department

Medaria Arradondo took the reins of the Minneapolis Police Department following the ouster of Janeé Harteau following the disastrous fatal shooting of Justine Damond in the Fulton neighborhood by a Minneapolis cop. Arradondo faces a difficult year, including possible criminal charges against that officer, a mayoral election that may bring in someone who did not choose him and an atmosphere of extreme tension between residents and the police force. He will not have much time to reduce tension while stemming a spike in downtown crime.


Tom Thibodeau
President of Basketball Operations/Head Coach
Minnesota Timberwolves

Tom Thibodeau (“Thibs”) is the chief decider (after Glen Taylor) for the region’s long-suffering NBA franchise. His first year on the job produced rather disappointing results, prompting questions about his misanthropic demeanor, roster choices and heavy use of players. After a summer that produced a wholesale roster renewal, Thibs is going to be expected to produce a playoff-caliber team with playoff-caliber results, lest he be asked to return to the ranks of former coaches.

Jay Debertin
CHS Inc.

In May, Jay Debertin was elevated to the top job at CHS Inc., a huge farmer-owned cooperative with $30.3 billion in revenue for fiscal 2016. Debertin, who has worked for CHS since 1984, faces major challenges. Net income at CHS dropped 46 percent in the last fiscal year, primarily because of struggles in the energy and agriculture segments of the business. Debertin, an East Grand Forks native, is now in the hot seat to turn around the co-op’s financial performance. He reported a quarterly net loss of $45.2 million in July, partly because a grain-trading partner in Brazil entered bankruptcy.

Mark Walchirk
Incoming CEO
Patterson Companies Inc.

Patterson Cos., a Mendota Heights-based maker of dental and veterinary supplies, was a surprise addition to Minnesota’s list of Fortune 500 companies in 2017. A phenomenal fiscal 2016 saw sales of Patterson’s veterinary products roughly doubled, but 2017’s result was by no means as positive. In June 2017, Patterson lost two of its top leaders: CEO Scott Anderson and John Adent, the CEO of Patterson Animal Health. Mark Walchirk takes the reins as this issue goes to press, charged with stabilizing the company and, ideally, retaining its place in the Fortune 500.


Kurt Daudt
Minnesota House of Representatives

First elected to the House in 2010, Kurt Daudt skyrocketed from obscurity to Speaker in just four years. His Greater Minnesota-focused strategy has boosted Republicans’ fortunes, but he’s clashed with Gov. Mark Dayton on everything from transportation policy to the defunding of the legislative branch through a line-item veto. With his sights potentially set on the governor’s mansion in 2018, Daudt faces perhaps his greatest challenge: using the next legislative session to highlight his conservative bona fides as a springboard for his candidacy, even as Dayton has no reason to play along. In a state that hasn’t elected a Republican to statewide office in over a decade, can Daudt get to the finish line?


Arthur Valdez
EVP Supply Chain and Logistics
Target Corp.

Considering Target’s retailing prowess, its deep and intractable supply-chain problems strike many observers as a puzzlement. Those problems took down its ambitious Canadian expansion and continue to bedevil the company, evidenced by the still-substantial empty shelves in its troubled grocery business. Both were initiatives of former CEO Gregg Steinhafel; Valdez is the man brought in to clean up the logistics mess. If 2018 is to be the year of Target’s turnaround, Valdez will need to be at the top of his game.

Maureen Bausch
Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee

Maureen Bausch has been getting ready for Minnesota’s close-up in the national spotlight for three years. Super Bowl LII finally arrives February 4, which will be her make-or-break moment. Even if Minneapolis gets a snowstorm or 15-below weather, people will be counting on Bausch to pull off a 10-day downtown festival that is entertaining to throngs of visitors. Bausch knows crowds: She was executive vice president of business development at Mall of America when she was chosen to lead Minnesota’s Super Bowl Host Committee.

Jude Bricker
Sun Country Airlines

Plucked by owner Marty Davis from Allegiant Air, Sun Country’s new CEO is the first pilot of the airline with industry experience in many years. He is charged with improving the airline’s modest profitability to help it better withstand the next industry downturn. He plans to move the airline to an a la carte pricing model with fewer free frills. There are also stated plans to reduce the airline’s reliance on MSP-based flying, though that’s been tried before with limited success. Sun Country is rather singular in the aviation industry in size and market position and many wonder how it continues to exist. Marty Davis expects Jude Bricker to make that case on the balance sheet more emphatically.


Jeff Harmening
General Mills

Within weeks of taking over as General Mills’ chief executive in June, Jeff Harmening laid out a five-point plan that he believes will turn around the Golden Valley-based food company, which, for the two years before his promotion, had failed to improve year-over-year sales. A top priority of Harmening’s turnaround plan is better pricing of the company’s products. “We have to have our pricing in the zone, because a lot of media spending—if your pricing isn’t in the right place—it really doesn’t work,” he told analysts last summer. By focusing more on innovation, building e-commerce capabilities and re-shaping its yogurt business, Harmening believes General Mills could experience a global resurgence.

Lori Melbostad
Premier Marine Inc.

This will truly be a make-or-break year for Lori Melbostad of Wyoming, Minn.-based luxury pontoon maker. Four years after Premier co-founder Bob Menne acquired the Weeres and Palm Beach brands, Premier revealed in court filings that the move resulted in a debt load of $10 million to $50 million and is the reason it sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in June. Melbostad’s task will be to keep the boatbuilder afloat in choppy waters, maintaining the supply of product to its dealer network.

Chuck Fletcher
General Manager
Minnesota Wild

“This is a great day in the history of the Minnesota Wild,” Chuck Fletcher said July 4, 2012, when the Wild rocked the hockey world. The team signed the NHL’s top two free agents, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. Since then, the Wild have had strong seasons that qualified them for the playoffs, but they’ve failed to make it very far. When owner Craig Leipold agreed to the big contracts for Parise and Suter, no doubt he was thinking about winning a Stanley Cup one day. The cup arrived in Minnesota in July—carried by Jake Guentzel, a Woodbury native and Pittsburgh Penguin. Pressure is mounting on Fletcher to produce.

George Goldfarb
Maurices; CEO Dressbarn

In April 2016, Duluth-based women’s clothing retailer Maurices moved its corporate offices into a new $80 million building. Goldfarb, Maurices’ genial longtime CEO, had led the company through a remarkable expansion—it now has more than 1,000 stores in 45 states and Canada. But since the move, Goldfarb and Maurices’ parent, New Jersey-based Ascena Retail Group Inc. (which also owns Ann Taylor and Lane Bryant), have been battling the decline in mall-based retail. In late September, Maurices reported an 8 percent drop in sales for the quarter ending July 29, consistent with the slide it has experienced all year.