The head of the most successful and most discussed retailer in the history of the world is stepping down. Lee Scott, CEO of Walmart announced his retirement as CEO today in a rather surprising move.
Scott has recently been held up as a CEO icon by labor unions as representing all the reasons that CEO's who might be opposed to the Employee Free Choice Act actually think:
We like driving the car and we're not going to give the steering wheel to anybody but us.
As reported by Reuters, Walmart Stores Inc, the world's largest retailer, said today that CEO Lee Scott will retire as chief executive early next year, and will be succeeded by Mike Duke, who heads its international operations.
The surprise announcement on Friday comes as Walmart builds upon its
strength as a discount retailer in a contracting U.S. economy, and is poised to
be one of the main draws for consumers during the crucial holiday sales
The executive changes are effective Feb. 1, 2009, Wal-Mart said.
Scott, 59, has served as CEO for more than eight years. He joined the
company in 1979 as an assistant director in the logistics division, rising to
executive vice president of logistics in 1993 and executive vice president of
merchandise in 1995.
He became president and CEO of Wal-Mart's U.S. division in 1998 and
president and CEO for the corporation in 2000.
Analysts said the succession plan comes at a good time for Wal-Mart,
which has boosted profits at the expense of rivals by persistently focusing on
"I think it's good. I'm happy to see it," said Joseph Feldman, a retail
analyst with Telsey Advisory Group in New York, of Duke, 58, the incoming CEO.
"It's a little strange that he (Scott) didn't want to get through the holiday
season" before announcing the transition, he said. "I don't think it's a sign
that they're going to have a lousy season."
Feldman said that at the company's analyst meeting in October, there
was almost a sense Scott was saying farewell, and "finally had the upper hand
over Wall Street."
Scott will remain as chairman of the executive committee of the board
of directors, and will be employed through Jan. 31, 2011.
The retailer also promoted Eduardo Castro-Wright, 53, who heads its
U.S. operation, to vice chairman, effective immediately. Feldman said the
promotion could signal Castro-Wright as a future CEO candidate.
Wal-Mart shares rose 1.9 percent to $51.60 in premarket trade.