Top management shifts continue at Wal-Mart, Holley to retire (Updated)

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 243 views 

The fruit basket turnover at play among the corporate executives continues at Wal-Mart Stores. The retailer announced Friday (Oct. 9) several key management changes among the top tier executives including the planned retirement of Charles Holley. The 59-year-old Holley will exit the company effective Jan. 31. The company classifies his leaving as a retirement and has appointed 47-year-old Brett Biggs as its next chief financial officer.

Holley joined Wal-Mart in 1994 from Tandy, now Radio Shack. In the 20 years he’s spent at Wal-Mart Holley has overseen finance and auditing, tax reporting, investor relations and has also held several roles in Walmart International including chief financial officer. Wal-Mart Stores CEO Doug McMillon said Holley has overseen global finance and strategy during a period of immense growth and change and he was also instrumental in shaping Wal-Mart’s solid financial position while shaping the retailer’s strong shareholder returns.

UPDATED INFO: When Holley retires from his role as chief financial officer for Wal-Mart Stores on Jan. 31, he will continue to receive payments of $1.9 million paid in multiple installments through January 2018, according to a federal filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday.

In addition, 31,930 restricted shares of Wal-Mart’s common stock originally scheduled to vest between Jan. 24, 2017 and Jan. 26, 2018 will be accelerated to vest on the date of Holley’s retirement. These vested shares would have a street value of $2.13 million at Friday’s stock price $77.71 per share.

Holley will forfeit 74,161 performance shares in connection with his retirement, which constitutes all of his outstanding performance shares scheduled to vest after his retirement date.

The retirement agreement also prohibits Holley from participating in a business that competes with Wal-Mart, and from soliciting Wal-Mart talent for employment for two years following Holley’s retirement.

Biggs, who will take the financial reins Feb. 1, is characterized by McMillon as a “strong leader whose broad experience uniquely qualifies him to lead our finance and strategy areas.”

“Having held a variety of important roles in all three of Wal-Mart’s business segments, Brett is well prepared. He thoroughly understands Wal-Mart’s operations, how we intend to compete in a dynamic and changing retail environment and how we can best serve customers, associates and shareholders,” McMillon added.

Biggs will report to McMillon. Since January 2014, Biggs has served as executive vice president and chief financial officer of Walmart International, where he is responsible for international strategy and finance activities, including business planning and analysis, financial services, and support for real estate and mergers and acquisitions.

Biggs has also served as chief financial officer of Walmart U.S. from January 2012 until January 2014, and as senior vice president, Sams Club Operations, from September 2010 until January 2012. He joined the company in 2000 from Leggett & Platt and prior to the that he was an accountant at Phillips Petroleum Company, now ConocoPhillips, and an auditor at Pricewaterhouse LLP, now PricewaterhouseCoopers,

Holley’s retirement news comes just one week after the retailer laid off 450 of its corporate workforce in Walmart U.S. and Sam’s Club. McMillon’s top tier of executives has completely turned over during his two and half-year run as CEO, except for Rosalind Brewer, CEO of Sam’s Club.

McMillon continues to pluck executives from the international ranks. First Greg Foran took over as Walmart U.S. CEO last year with Bill Simon’s exit. Judith McKenna was tapped last year from Walmart International to replace Gisel Ruiz who went back to human resources. Biggs too, comes from the international business.

Alan Ellstrand, a corporate governance expert from the University of Arkansas, said it’s not unusual for a new CEO to assemble his own team of leaders. In the case of McMillon, who has served on the world stage, Ellstrand said he has no doubt that McMillon worked seen some of the best operators in the world. He adds that many of Wal-Mart’s international businesses are much further along in small format management, a relatively new concept for Walmart U.S.

Like Foran and McKenna who were promoted to Wal-Mart U.S. positions from international posts in the past year, Wal-Mart also recently brought John Furner back to the U.S. from his executive role in China for a position to be named later. That new position for Furner was also announced on Friday (Oct.9).

Furner will takeover as the executive vice president, merchandising for Sam’s Club replacing Charles Redfield who will become the new executive vice president of food for Walmart U.S., a position held by Steve Bratspies.

The retailer also announced that Bratspies will assume the vacant role of chief merchandising officer that has been handled by Foran since Duncan McNaugton’s departure in November 2014. McMillon said Furner has made significant improvements in buying leverage and reducing organization complexity resulting in improved profitability and price leadership as Walmart China, which is why he was tagged for the challenging role at Sam’s Club.

Bratspies in his role as chief merchandising officer, will oversee all merchandise categories across more than 4,500 stores in the U.S. business. He will continue to report to Foran.

"Steve is a true leader and an example of the rich talent that exists within the merchandise organization,” Foran said in the release. “His outstanding merchandising instincts and commitment to innovation and price leadership will challenge the status quo to serve our customers better.”

Bratspies joined the company in 2005 and has held several leadership positions at Walmart in marketing, dry grocery and general merchandise. Prior to joining Walmart U.S. Bratspies served as chief marketing officer for Specialty Brands. He has held roles in finance, new ventures and marketing at Frito-Lay, and consulting positions with A.T. Kearney and Andersen Consulting.