Jeff Gearhart, executive vice president, global governance and corporate secretary at Wal-Mart Stores, will retire from the retail giant effective Jan. 31, according to an internal memo sent by CEO Doug McMillon on Friday (Dec. 15).
Gearhart has logged 14 years with Wal-Mart capping off a 29-year legal career, McMillon noted in the email. He said the decision to retire was Gearhart’s, noting his intent to “spend more time cheering on the Razorbacks, giving to important causes and enjoying a few hobbies.”
“When Jeff first came to me and told me he was considering retirement at the end of the fiscal year, I tried ignoring him. Then I tried talking him out of it. However, when he persisted, I had to take him seriously. With his mind made up … a replacement will be named at a later date,” McMillon noted in the email.
The memo also said Gearhart helped created strong teams in legal; global ethics and compliance and global investigations, security, aviation and travel.
“I’m particularly proud of the globally recognized ethics and compliance program he has helped build, which was recognized last year by the New York Stock Exchange Governance Services as the 2016 winner of the “Best Governance, Risk, and Compliance Program” for Large-Cap companies,” the memo noted.
Gearhart joined Wal-Mart in 2003 after 14 years in private practice. During his tenure, McMillon said Gearhart “served in several roles including senior vice president, deputy general counsel and executive vice president, general counsel, before becoming executive vice president, global governance and corporate secretary in 2010.
“Gearhart has been a valued member of our executive council providing important input on our strategy these past few years. He is a friend to all of us, who not only built a strong team and delivered results, but also brought a sense of humor and fun with him to work that we’ll miss when he’s gone. From his silly videos and costumes to his unforgettable Saturday morning Family Feud moment with Steve Harvey, he has enriched our lives,” McMillon noted.
Gearhart serves on the board of directors for the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville and and is a member of the American Bar Association and Arkansas Bar Association. McMillon said Gearhart plans to remain in the area.
Before joining Wal-Mart, Gearhart was a partner with Kutak Rock LLP, practicing in the corporate, securities and merger and acquisitions areas. In addition, he was previously a partner with the Rose Law Firm. Gearhart attended law school at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.