Blog: Wal-Mart continues to play CEO card close to chest

Michelle Russell | 14 May 2013

US retail giant Wal-Mart has continued to remain tight-lipped over who will succeed current CEO Mike Duke when he steps down.

Two possible internal candidates have been mooted as potential successors: Bill Simon, the head of Wal-Mart's US arm and Doug McMillon, who heads up its international operations.

A spokesperson for the retailer said it would not comment on "rumour or speculation", but that is unlikely to put a stop to the talk over who could succeed Duke.

Neil Stern, a senior partner at US retail consultants MacmillanDoolittle, believes the chances of Wal-Mart hiring externally is "unlikely" given it has always appointed from within for CEO - and particularly given the company is performing "at a fairly strong level".

McMillon and Simon are frequently mentioned as potential successors and are undoubtedly front-runners, according to Stern.

"Both have considerable experience with multiple aspects of the business. Doug is still quite young but has been a rising star for quite some time. Bill has effectively turned around the US, While he doesn't have Wal-Mart experience globally, he is a seasoned global executive. It will be interesting to see which direction they go," he tells just-food.

Whichever direction Wal-Mart chooses to turn, the challenges for Duke's successor are "numerous", Stern believes.

He cites: "Continued US growth and the quest for new format growth ... international growth with particular focus in emerging markets ... the biggest challenge - how to grow e-commerce and multi-channel retail to remain relevant in the future ... and always, the pubic perception of the running the world's largest retailer."

According to a number of reports, Duke isn't expected to step down immediately, but Wal-Mart may name his successor in the coming months.


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