Wal-Mart announces new CEO. Protesting employees hope for change.

Wal-Mart veteran Doug McMillon will succeed Michael Duke as president and CEO, Walmart announced Monday. Employees are hopeful that McMillon will bring change to the company. 

April L. Brown/AP Photo/File
Doug McMillon, President and CEO, Wal-Mart International, speaks at the shareholders meeting in Fayetteville, Ark. Wal-Mart Stores on Monday announced that CEO and President Mike Duke is stepping down from those posts, and named McMillon as his successor, effective Feb. 1, 2014.

Wal-Mart, Inc. announced Monday that Doug McMillon, head of the company’s international division, will succeed Michael Duke as the retail giant’s president and chief executive officer effective February 1, 2014.

Mr. McMillon has also been elected to the company’s board of directors, effective immediately. Following tradition, Mr. Duke will stay on as an advisor to McMillon for one year. McMillon will be the fifth CEO of the company in its 63-year history.

McMillon is a seasoned Wal-Mart veteran. The Arkansas native began his 29-year relationship with the company as a teenager unpacking trucks at a distribution center in 1984. He returned to the company in 1990 as a buyer trainee and has climbed the executive ranks ever since.

“He has broad experience – with successful senior leadership roles in all of Wal-Mart’s business segments – and a deep understanding of the economic, social and technological trends shaping our world,” Rob Walton, chairman of Wal-Mart’s board of directors said in a statement announcing McMillon’s appointment. McMillon has held multiple merchandising positions, served as CEO of the Wal-Mart-owned wholesale chain Sam’s Club, and currently serves as president of Wal-Mart International managing more than 6,300 stores and 800,000 employees. 

The leadership change comes at a turbulent time for the company. Wal-Mart has reported declining sales for three consecutive quarters and faces growing scrutiny over employee wages and benefits. The company is also under investigation by the Securities Exchange Council for alleged bribery cases in Mexico and other countries.

The retailer's employees have expressed support of McMillon's appointment. 

“At first everyone was surprised but that immediately went from surprised to ‘it’s about time,’” Wal-Mart associate Barbara Hertz said in a phone interview.  Ms. Hertz received news of the appointment while at work this morning. “We needed change.”

For the past year, Wal-Mart has faced a series of escalating worker protests demanding higher wages. Black Friday demonstrations are planned at Wal-Mart stores across the country for the second year in a row. Employees at Walmart stores in Minneapolis and Miami walked off the job Monday morning, demanding higher wages. Wal-Mart employees and supporters have scheduled 1,500 protests nationwide this Friday, OUR Wal-Mart announced last week.

"We're happy to see Mr. McMillon acknowledge the hard work of associates in his statement this morning, and we hope that this appreciation translates into improving jobs for Walmart workers," Walmart associate Tiffany Beroid said in an OUR Walmart statement e-mailed out morning. "We sincerely hope that Mr. McMillon will answer the country's calls for Walmart to publicly commit to paying $25,000 a year, providing full-time work and ending its illegal retaliation against its own employees."

Wal-Mart shares rose 37 cents Monday morning following the announcement, and analysts praised the choice. "It’s a terrific move,”Craig Johnson of the market advisory firm Customer Growth Partners, told MarketWatch. “He will provide Wal-Mart with much needed innovation. He’s an ideal candidate. He’s born and bred in Wal-Mart. He’s checked all the boxes. He’s innovative and tries new things.”

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