Wal-Mart succession plan keeps Walton family in board leadership

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 2,383 views 

The world got a glimpse into the future board leadership for Wal-Mart Stores Inc. on Friday (June 6) as longtime chairman Rob Walton announced Greg Penner, his son-in-law, was chosen to fill a new position of vice chairman.

Penner, 44, has been a company director since 2008, and was re-elected along with the slate of 14 directors during Friday’s annual meeting in Fayetteville.

“One of the board’s most important responsibilities is long-term succession planning, and the company spends considerable time planning for stability and continuity, both at the board and management level,” said Walton, 69, who will remain chairman for the company is parents founded 52 years ago.

“In keeping with this commitment, I’m pleased with Greg’s appointment. Wal-Mart has benefited from his broad expertise in strategic planning, finance and investment matters. I’m excited about Greg working closely with me, the Board and the management team in guiding Wal-Mart into the future.”

Penner is chair of the technology and e-commerce committee and also serves on the global compensation and strategic planning and finance committees.

“I am committed to the long-term success of Wal-Mart,” Penner said in a statement. “My first Walmart experience was in 1994 and over the years I’ve developed a deep appreciation for our associates and their service to our customers. I look forward to contributing to a stronger Walmart in any way possible including how we develop new digital capabilities to add to our store offering. This is an exciting time to be part of Walmart.”

The appointment was announced just minutes after an eight-year employee from Indiana introduced a shareholder proposition asking the board for an independent chairman. Citing her $23,000 low wage and the high number of employees who are on food stamps, she said Mr. Sam founded a great company, but over the years he had help from his associates and part of his vision included a true partnership between the associates and the company leadership.

Walton announced later in the meeting that the proposal seeking an independent board chairman failed. Also failed were two shareholder proposals asking for lobbying disclosure and a report on recoupment of executive pay failed to gain the number of votes needed for adoption.

The Walton Family controls roughly 51% of the voting power in Wal-Mart Stores. The Wal-Mart board of 14 is comprised of nine independent directors, with a diverse range of expertise.

Walton said Penner brings broad technology and international business experience to Wal-Mart’s Board. He has been a general partner of investment management firm Madrone Capital Partners since 2005. He worked for Walmart International from 2002 to 2005, serving as senior vice president and chief financial officer for Japan. Prior to that role, he was senior vice president of finance and strategy for Walmart.com. Penner also worked as a financial analyst for Goldman Sachs & Co.

Wal-Mart said it has always strived to maintain high corporate governance standards. In keeping with this goal, and unlike most other companies in the Fortune 100, the board chose in 1988 to separate the roles of chairman and CEO.

In addition, the company said it has a number of corporate governance measures in place to ensure that the board acts independently of management.