Is Mike Duke Planning to Check Out at Wal-Mart?

Is Mike Duke Planning to Check Out at Wal-Mart?
Michael T. Duke, chief executive officer of Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
Photograph by Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg

Mike Duke has been the president and chief executive of Wal-Mart Stores since 2009. Maybe four years is enough. Bloomberg News reported on May 7 that the world’s largest retailer has identified two possible successors to Duke: Doug McMillon, who’s 46 and runs the international operations, and Bill Simon, who’s 53 and is in charge of the U.S. stores.

Duke is not expected to step down immediately, but a person close to the situation says Wal-Mart might name his successor in the coming months. (Wal-Mart’s shareholder meeting is June 7.) When Duke was appointed chief executive, he had a three-month orientation before taking over. David Tovar, a Wal-Mart spokesperson, said the company doesn’t comment on rumors.

Duke’s time as head of the world’s largest retailer has been tumultuous. And if he does leave this year, he would have the shortest tenure of any of Wal-Mart’s chief executives. Sales gains in the U.S. are slowing; customers have been complaining that store shelves aren’t always fully stocked.

As the holiday shopping season was getting under way last November, OUR Walmart, a union-backed group, staged protests around the country asking for more hours and better pay.

That same month, more than 100 workers died in a fire at a factory in Bangladesh that was sewing clothes for several retailers, including Wal-Mart. The company says it was unaware its supplier had sent work to the factory and fired the supplier. According to Bloomberg News, the previous year Wal-Mart had declined to sign an agreement among retailers to pay their suppliers to improve safety conditions at Bangladeshi factories.

And the U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission continue to investigate allegations of corruption by company executives in its Mexican subsidiary, Wal-Mart’s biggest, and a potential cover-up by executives at its headquarters in Bentonville, Ark. Wal-Mart is cooperating with the investigations and conducting its own internal investigation and review. Last year it spent about $157 million on the probes.

Among those with the most say about who succeeds Duke—and when—is the Walton family itself. They own a considerable amount of the company stock, and Rob Walton, the son of founder Sam Walton, has been the chairman of the board of directors since 1992.

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