Former Walmart execs find challenging roles to fill after leaving Bentonville

by Kim Souza ([email protected]) 8,660 views 

Editor’s note: This is the final of a two-part series about retail industry executives who worked at Walmart. Link here for the first article.

Walmart is known as a talent builder in the retail industry so it’s no surprise many of its employees rise through the ranks and eventually leave to work at other companies and organizations. Three top Walmart execs left the retailer in 2019 to lead other companies.

Jamie Iannone was a rising star at Walmart through his work at bringing Sam’s Club into the technology forefront. Iannone joined Sam’s Club in 2014 as CEO of SamsClub.com and headed up the retailer’s membership and technology divisions. During his tenure, Sam’s Club worked to improve Scan & Go, launched Sam’s Garage and Ask Sam apps to help customers and employees do their jobs and access services more efficiently. He also oversaw the concept club located in Dallas that is a technology laboratory for the larger retail chain.

“When Jamie came to Sam’s Club they were pretty far behind Walmart in terms of technology capabilities for the front and back-end of clubs. When he left earlier this year, Sam’s Club was seen as the leader of technology innovation within the Walmart portfolio,” said Scott Benedict, director of retail studies at Texas A&M and former Walmart executive.

Iannone was promoted to chief operating officer for Walmart eCommerce shortly before he left the retail giant. He previously worked at eBay from 2001 to 2009 in various leadership roles, so Iannone said this move was like going home again. Thomas Tierney, chairman of eBay’s board said Iannone was the ideal CEO to lead the company’s next chapter of growth and success.

The 47-year-old Iannone’s contract with eBay pays him a $1 million annual salary with a minimum $1.5 million first-year bonus and $12 million in deferred compensation in the form of restricted stock grants beginning in 2021. He also is entitled to a performance bonus of $4.5 million and other perks. He also has a $3.5 million buyout with three pay periods of termination or resignation. There would be a $1.5 million paid additionally at that first anniversary, according to the contract terms filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. His salary at Walmart was not made public

Cameron Smith, founder of CSA Recruiters in Rogers, said other retailers see tremendous value in former Walmart executives because there is no other company larger and one’s ability to experience the scale of that magnitude is beneficial.

“In 2015, people were writing off Walmart as a long-term competitor within eCommerce and that the war had already been won by Amazon. Well, the past three months of COVID-19 proves that this is the farthest thing from the truth. Walmart has emerged victorious and a hero during COVID-19, while pushing up adoption of online grocery pickup and delivery years ahead of schedule. Executives like Jeremy King leaving as the top Walmart tech exec to go to Pinterest and Jamie Iannone going back to eBay are evidence that the industry (let alone Wall Street) has stopped pigeon-holing Walmart as only a brick-and-mortar leader and are giving the company and its leadership the long-overdue respect they deserve as digital forces to be reckoned with,” Smith told Talk Business & Politics.

Greg Foran was considered a superstar at Walmart after his turnaround of the Walmart U.S. business. He was CEO of the retailer’s flagship U.S. business between 2014 to the end of 2019. He found Walmart stores “messy and overstocked with products that didn’t sell and understocked with other items.” He revamped the retailer’s private brands strategy and invested heavily in price reductions while also cleaning up the restrooms and clearing out the backrooms.

His leaving the retailer was a not a total surprise and tensions were reported between he and Marc Lore, CEO of Walmart U.S. eCommerce, with U.S. online grocery pickup responsible for a growing part of the online success and his division was often asked to make sacrifices to support losses for Lore’s division. A New Zealand native, Foran said he was ready to return home, and when the opportunity came for him to become the CEO of New Zealand Air he made the move. Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said Foran’s contributions from Foran were immense but the plan had always been for him to return to his homeland.

His departure at Walmart was seen as a “big blow” according to Brian Yarborough, a retail analyst with Edward D. Jones

Foran began at New Zealand Air in early February and quickly went to work downsizing the executive team in trying to adapt the airline to a much smaller scale amid the COVID-19 impact. He said it would likely take the business two years to get back to 70% of its former size. His annual salary was recently reduced to $2.4 million, down $250,000 as the airline cut expenses. In March the company forecast $340 million to $400 million in earnings, down from the $425 million to $525 million previously forecast. His full compensation was not available as the company trades on the New Zealand exchange. Foran’s last year at Walmart saw his total compensation reach $13.466 million.

Mike Moore was a typical Walmart success story. He began as an assistant store manager in Carthage, Mo., in 1988 and worked his way up the chain becoming district manager in Oklahoma and Nebraska and then he led the south Texas and Florida businesses as regional vice president. In 2004 he was promoted to lead the West division. He received the coveted Sam M. Walton Entrepreneur award in 2005 and was promoted to executive vice president of Walmart’s central division where he was responsible for real estate, supply chain and merchandising across multiple divisions.

Perhaps his biggest contribution at Walmart was leading the development and growth of Walmart’s Neighborhood Market presence by adding 700 new stores over three years. Moore then became president of Walmart supercenters, a job he held until he retired at age 53 in January 2019. In late 2019 he was recruited by Texas-based Anderson Merchandising to become the CEO of the company that does work for Walmart.

“In my years with Walmart, Anderson Merchandisers was absolutely one of the best we worked with, so a chance to work with [Chairman] Charlie [Anderson] and his team and bring new ideas, drive growth and add more great customers was just too good an opportunity to pass up,” Moore said in a statement. “I will, of course, be thrilled to be working with Walmart again.”

Anderson Merchandising is privately owned. Moore oversees the business that contracts with more than 5,000 merchandisers who work with more than 4,000 retail customers, including Walmart.

Other top executives who now lead other companies are Sam’s Club CEO Rosalind Brewer who is now the chief operating officer at Starbucks, and Jerome King, who traded his chief information officer gig at Walmart for a similar role at Pinterest.

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