Doug McMillon, the chief executive of Wal-Mart’s operations outside the US, is to become the CEO of the world’s largest retailer, it said today (25 November).

McMillon will replace Mike Duke as the US retail giant’s president and CEO in February.

There was speculation in May that Wal-Mart’s board had earmarked two possible internal candidates to succeed Duke – McMillon and Bill Simon, the head of the retailer’s business in the US.

In a statement today, Wal-Mart chairman Rob Walton said the change at the top “comes at a time of strength and growth at Walmart”.

He said: “The company has the right strategy to serve the changing customer around the world, and Doug has been actively involved in this process. The company has a strong management team to execute that strategy.”

McMillon, 47, joined Wal-Mart in 1984 after taking a job in a distribution centre in the US. Between 2006 and 2009, he was president and CEO of Wal-Mart’s wholesale chain Sam’s Club. In 2009, he took charge of its operations outside the US. He said his appointment as president and CEO of the company was “a great privilege”.

Walton praised Duke, who became CEO in 2009, for “put[ting] in place the building blocks for the next generation Wal-Mart”. He added: “Today the company is stronger, more global and more unified across all our stores, mobile and online.”

Duke, who joined Wal-Mart in 1995, will stay on as chairman of the executive committee of the board and, in the tradition of his predecessors, remain as an advisor to McMillon for one year. The company plans to make an announcement on McMillon’s successor as CEO of its international arm by the end of the fiscal year in January.

Shares in Wal-Mart were up 0.73% at US$80.39 at 10:20 ET.