With Sam’s Club CEO Rosalind Brewer exiting the company Jan. 31, incoming CEO John Furner announced several shifts and management restructuring effective when the retailer’s new year begins Feb. 1.
Gisel Ruiz will transition to the role of executive vice president of operations for Sam’s Club as Don Frieson, who has held that role since 2012, exits the company. Frieson said he is retiring from Sam’s Club and Wal-Mart where he has spent the past 18 years in executive roles from logistics and supply chain to regional operations for Walmart to working in Africa for two years integrating Massmart into Wal-Mart and most recently overseeing all operations for Sam’s Club in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.
Frieson made his retirement public with the following post on LinkedIn earlier this week: “As of January 31, 2017 I will retire after an 18 year career with Walmart. I’ve had the great fortune to work across the business supporting great associates in the Private Fleet, Logistics, Wal-Mart Stores division, Walmart International (South Africa) and Sam’s Club.”
Karenann Terrell, chief information officer Walmart, credited Frieson with being an exceptional leader.
“Retirement? You? You’ve got way too much game still left and the world needs your force for good right about now … I learned a ton about being a good associate and a good person from you. Act 2 coming up,” Terrell noted on the post.
Terrell is also exiting the retail giant next month, but has yet to disclose her next move. Terrell will be replaced by Clay Johnson, chief information officer for G.E. Power.
Furner sent a memo Jan. 13 to employees detailing several key management changes at Sam’s Club. The retailer shared that memo with Talk Business & Politics on Wednesday (Jan. 25).
Furner is charged with growing Sam’s Club business while also taking care of its expanding member base ensuring the shopping experience from merchandise selection to seamless checkout continues to improve. The team lining up behind Furner has nearly 80 years of combined experience at Wal-Mart or Sam’s Club, and is also sprinkled with some new emerging talent.
Ruiz, like Furner has grown up in Wal-Mart, after signing on to the retailer’s management training program almost 25 years ago. Ruiz spent the past two years out of the U.S. limelight as executive vice president for the International People Division at Wal-Mart, where she supported human resource efforts for more than a million employees in 26 countries. Prior to that, Ruiz was promoted to chief operations officer for Walmart U.S. working with Duncan MacNaughton in February 2012 at the same time Brewer was named CEO of Sam’s Club.
Ruiz also had additional responsibilities of oversight of U.S. Asset Protection Real Estate and Store Innovations, under then Walmart U.S. CEO Bill Simon. Ruiz was replaced as chief operations officer for Walmart U.S. by Judith McKenna in December 2014 by Greg Foran, CEO of Walmart U.S.
Ruiz is now moving back into operations, but this time on a smaller scale given that Sam’s Club has roughly 660 clubs around the country, compared to more than 4,400 Walmart U.S. stores. During Ruiz’s tenure at Walmart she floated back and forth from human resources and operations but she has been recognized as one of the top 25 powerful minority women in business by the Minority Enterprise Executive Council. During her two-year stint as chief operations officer for Walmart U.S., Ruiz helped to oversee the opening of 400 stores across the country, many of which were Neighborhood Market formats.
Furner said the combination of deep retail experience, strong people leadership and her passion for serving customers will allow Ruiz to make an immediate impact on the Sam’s Club business.
Ashley Buchanan will replace Furner as chief merchandising officer for Sam’s Club. Buchanan most recently served as senior vice president of packaged goods at Walmart U.S. He joined Walmart in 2007 as part of the Walmart Innovations Team and has since held several leadership roles in Walmart’s Food Division. Furner said Buchanan will be responsible for continuing the charge to make the product the hero in the warehouse clubs.
Also retiring from Sam’s Club is Seong Ohm. Ohm spent 13 years between Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club positions, most recently launching nine new services, including auto buying and travel and overseeing the credit team on negotiating and launching one of the largest retail credit programs. Furner said as Ohm retires Sam’s Club will beef up its merchandising team with the addition of Lance de la Rosa who’ll be moving from operations to senior vice president of merchandise execution. He will report to Buchanan. Rosa has 30 years experience in Wal-Mart operations, international and most recently Sam’s Club.
Tracey Brown, another up and comer at Sam’s Club overseeing membership for the past couple of years, will transition into the senior vice president of operations and chief experience officer role. Membership growth was one of the biggest successes at Sam’s Club in recent years and Brown is being asked to apply her expertise to the operations division.
Furner said Brown “will bring a fresh perspective to the in-club experience, using data and analytics to reinvent the way members shop our clubs, while also simplifying our in-club processes and running clean, fast and friendly clubs.”
Sam’s Club is also restructuring its regional management teams and reducing the number of regions from six to five. The new management alignment and leadership is: Missy Craig – South Central Region; Kevin Buncum – North Central Region; Sean Mehranbod – Western Region; Betty Marshall – Southeast Region; and Steve Schrobilgen – Northeast Region.