Greg Foran exits Walmart as U.S. CEO; John Furner named successor

by Kim Souza (ksouza@talkbusiness.net) 1,910 views 

Walmart U.S. CEO Greg Foran spoke to the media June 6, 2019, about new technology in use and being tested at Walmart U.S. stores.

Greg Foran, U.S. CEO for Walmart Inc., is leaving the company after five years in the role. Foran, a native of New Zealand, is returning home to lead Air New Zealand Limited. He has served as CEO of Walmart U.S. since August 2014, and he first joined Walmart in October 2011.

Walmart made the announcement Thursday (Oct. 10) with a press release on its website. The company said Sam’s Club CEO John Furner will assume the Walmart U.S. CEO role, effective Nov. 1. The U.S. CEO role is a high profile position that oversees more than 1.5 million employees and 4,500 stores.

“It has been an honor to lead the team at Walmart U.S.,” Foran said in a statement. “I’m proud of what we’ve been able to achieve at a unique moment for retail and want to thank the associates who made it happen. It is bittersweet to leave Walmart, but this incredible opportunity to lead an iconic Kiwi brand was one I could not pass up, and I’m looking forward to this next chapter.”

Walmart President and CEO Doug McMillon handpicked Foran to lead U.S. stores shortly after he took the helm in 2014. Foran was heralded as an operator who pays great attention to detail. Foran embarked on a mission to clean up the stores, make them friendlier and improve overall service.

“Greg Foran has made a huge difference for Walmart, and we are grateful,” McMillon said in the news release. “He built a strong plan from the beginning to strengthen the U.S. business — a plan that made significant choices around investing in wages and benefits for associates and investing in price for customers. Greg’s ability to innovate, whether it’s making our stores a competitive advantage in an omnichannel environment or equipping associates with next-generation technology and training, has helped position us for the future.”

McMillon said the results under Foran speak for themselves. Every quarter he led the Walmart U.S. business segment, the unit had positive comp sales. Foran also reduced inventory and ushered in training academies for employees. The academies also streamline the best practices protocol that Foran brought back to the forefront for store operations.

“We will miss Greg and thank him for his leadership. He has made a difference for our customers, associates and shareholders,” McMillon said in the release.

While Foran’s absence is huge for the company, McMillon said Foran will stay on until Jan. 31 to help with Furner’s transition.

“John has done a fantastic job at Sam’s Club, and he will continue the momentum we have in Walmart U.S.,” McMillon said. “John knows our business well, having held many different jobs in the company over more than 25 years, and he is helping transform it for the future.”

John Furner

McMillon added: “Furner has the experience and judgment to know what we should continue doing and what we should change. He embraces technology and new ways of working, and he keeps our customers and Sam’s Club members at the center of everything we do while delivering results for the business. I look forward to seeing his impact on our customers and associates in Walmart U.S.”

Like McMillon, Furner, 45, has grown up at Walmart. He began working as an hourly employee with attending college at the University of Arkansas. He worked his way up through several frontline leadership roles, later becoming a store manager, district manager and buyer. He has held leadership roles in operations, merchandising and sourcing in Walmart U.S., Sam’s Club and Walmart International. At Walmart China, he was chief merchandising and marketing officer. Before becoming Sam’s Club CEO in 2017, he was the chief merchandising officer for Sam’s Club.

In the new role, Furner will partner with Walmart U.S. eCommerce CEO Marc Lore, who also reports to McMillon, to deliver a seamless omnichannel experience for Walmart’s U.S. customers.

“I’m grateful for this opportunity and ready to get started,” Furner said. “There’s no better place than Walmart U.S. to touch the lives of millions of customers and associates. Together with the team, we will build on the progress under Greg’s leadership and continue to make Walmart an even better place to work and shop. I also want to thank the Sam’s Club team. My years with you have been amazing.”

Sam’s Club will announce Furner’s successor at a later date.

ANALYST REACTION
Analysts’ first reaction to the news indicated their confidence in Walmart’s deep bench of leadership. While Foran’s contributions have been significant over the past five years, Furner also had achieved solid results at Sam’s Club.

Alan Ellstrand, associate dean at the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas, said Furner is steeped in the Walmart culture and has demonstrated his ability to lead within Walmart over the years.

“Sometimes Walmart has brought in outside talent that has not been able to totally mesh with the culture. Foran’s contributions to the business are sizable. He leaves a hole to fill, but Furner looks to be a solid choice to take those reins,” Ellstrand said.

When asked who might be in line as Furner’s successor as Sam’s Club CEO, Ellstrand said the only name that came to mind was Charles Redfield, who spent time as the No. 2 person at Sam’s Club under former CEO Rosalind Brewer. He said that is merely a guess.

Shares of Walmart Inc. (NYSE: WMT) closed Thursday at $118.62, up 68 cents on the day. Walmart announced Foran’s departure after the market closed.  Over the past 52 weeks, Walmart shares have traded between $85.78 and $119.88.

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