David Dayne Glass, who served as president and CEO of Walmart from 1988 to 2000, died Jan. 9, according to the Glass family. He was 84. He died of complications associated with pneumonia.
Most recently Glass was owner and CEO of the Kansas City Royals, a team he helped lead to two consecutive World Series appearances and in 2015 brought the World Championship trophy to the fans of Kansas City. Glass and his family sold the Royals to John Sherman in August for $1 billion and Major League Baseball ratified the sale in November.
A native of Mountain View, Mo., Glass served in the U.S. Army from 1954-1956 after graduating high school. After leaving the Army Glass earned a business degree from Southwest Missouri State University, now named Missouri State University, in Springfield, Mo.
Upon graduation, Glass began his retail career in 1960 with Crank Drug Co. in Springfield. He left Crank in 1968 after the company was sold and worked for two other companies, including serving as General Manager of Consumer Markets in Springfield. In 1976, Glass was recruited by Walmart founder Sam Walton to become Walmart’s Chief Financial Officer.
Glass was named president and CEO of Walmart in 1988 and served in that role for 12 years. During his term in that role, Glass guided the company through a period of extraordinary growth both in terms of revenues and expansion including retail acquisitions, expansions including new retail formats and significant international expansion.
Walmart CEO Doug McMillon released a memo to Walmart employees to note the contributions Glass made to the organization over the years.
“Due to his authentic humility, we think David Glass may be the most under-appreciated CEO in the history of business. The choices he made and the results of the company reflect his wisdom, dedication and servant leadership. We will miss him immensely and are eternally grateful,” McMillon said. “Despite all his success, he managed to give all the credit away. He would credit our associates and rightfully so. But, without his wisdom and good judgment, his intuition that led us to blaze new trails, his iron will and the love he had for all of us, Walmart would not be the company we are today.”
Glass came to Walmart from the grocery business and was a leader in the Supercenter concept that catapulted Walmart to unprecedented success over the past three decades. McMillon said Glass was a “brilliant” leader in all respects. Glass was named president and CEO of Walmart in 1988, handpicked by Sam Walton as his successor. Walton has said Glass was the man to lead the company into the future. Glass guided the company through a period of extraordinary growth both in terms of revenues and expansion including new retail formats and significant international expansion.
During his tenure, annual revenues increased from $15 billion in fiscal 1988 to roughly $165 billion in fiscal 2000, when he handed leadership over to Lee Scott. Glass also grew the company internationally, with investments in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the United Kingdom.
Glass was also instrumental in the development and success of Walmart’s automated distribution network which served as a competitive advantage for many years while the rest of retail played catch-up. Walmart’s massive technology division in Bentonville is housed in the Glass Technology center named for Glass and his contributions to linking Walmart and its suppliers via computer technology.
Walmart’s retired senior chairman Rob Walton expressed his gratitude to Glass over the years.
“For many years, my dad worked hard to recruit David before he joined us in 1976. Little did we know then the monumental impact he would have on us and the retail industry. David’s knowledge of the grocery industry, his financial acumen, and his embrace of technology were invaluable as we rapidly grew the business. When we lost Sam, David provided a steady, visionary hand the company needed to lead it forward. He did so with a deep sense of humility while maintaining the values and principles dad founded the company on. More than anyone beyond Sam Walton, David Glass is responsible for making Walmart the company it is today. On behalf of the Walton family, I want to express our appreciation for David as a leader and as a friend. He will be deeply missed,” Walton said.
After Walmart, Glass became the owner of the Kansas City Royals who won the World Series in 2015. The Glass family said as he reflected on that experience, the story that seemed to give him the most joy was related to the victory parade and how the city celebrated. The Kansas City Royals issued the following statement.
“Like so many Kansas Citians, I am deeply saddened by the news of David’s passing,” said club owner John Sherman. “His voice among other owners was so respected; he led several Major League Baseball committees to better the game. His passion for baseball and love for Kansas City was the driving force in bringing success on the field for this franchise.”
Glass was honored with numerous retail and business awards over the years, including being named “most admired CEO” in 1993 by Fortune Magazine, and inducted into the Retail Hall of Fame in 2000 and into the Arkansas Business Hall of Fame. Glass was elected to the Board of Directors of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in July 2000, where he served as a member of the Pension and Audit Committees.
Glass kept an office in Bentonville and his primary residence was in Bella Vista. Survivors include his wife Ruth, three children, six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
Glass and his family have been supportive of numerous charitable causes and organizations over the years including Missouri State University. In fact, the Missouri State College of Business is named David D. Glass Hall in honor of his dedication to the university.
The Glass family will hold a public “Celebration of Life” in his honor on 1 p.m., Monday, Jan. 27, at the Northwest Arkansas Fellowship Bible Church, 1051 W. Pleasant Grove Road in Rogers.