Walmart announced Monday that its board of directors has elected Doug McMillon to be the next CEO. Current CEO Mike Duke, who has led the company since 2009, has made a "personal" decision to step down, a spokesman told The Associated Press. McMillon will take over on Feb. 1.
The 47-year-old McMillon is the president and CEO of Walmart International, but his tenure at Walmart has been decades long. McMillon first came to Walmart as a teenager, when in 1984 he worked as a summer associate in a Walmart Distribution Center. McMillon came back to the company in 1990 when he was in business school, then worked his way up the chain, eventually helming Sam's Club, Walmart's chain of value clubs, before taking over the international division.
Rob Walton, chairman of Walmart's board, praised McMillon's "broad experience" with the company in a statement.
"Mike put in place the building blocks for the next generation Walmart and today the company is stronger, more global and more unified across all our stores, mobile and online," Walton said.
McMillon takes over a $469 billion business that sits atop the Fortune 500 and is the nation's largest grocer, in addition to the largest retailer.
He also inherits a bevy of challenges. Walmart is fending off competition not only from brick-and-mortar retailers but also Amazon, which recently announced Sunday delivery in some cities and also is working to move into grocery delivery. The store also faced criticism of factory conditions in foreign countries, when in April a building collapse in Bangladesh killed more than 1,100 factory workers.
The company also suffered a public-relations black eye on Nov. 18, when the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported an Ohio Walmart store asked customers to donate food so "associates in need can enjoy Thanksgiving dinner," leading many to urge the store to increase wages for the lowest-paid workers.
Critics have long advocated for better treatment of Walmart workers, saying they need better pay and benefits. Workers in cities nationwide say they are planning more than 1,500 protests for Black Friday.
For its part, Walmart has begun heavily publicizing its efforts to promote workers. In June, the store announced it promotes 500 workers a day, and then in September it promoted 35,000 temporary workers from part- to full-time status and another 35,000 from temporary to part-time status. In October the company announced another 25,000 promotions, and on Nov. 18 – on the heels of the canned food drive fiasco – the store did 350 on-the-spot job promotions at a store town-hall meeting.
Promoting from within is nothing new in the C suite. When Duke became CEO, he had been with the company for 14 years. Now, Walmart can add one more worker to the promoted-from-within tally.