Former Walmart execs take leadership posts at Target, Sprouts, Michaels

by Kim Souza ([email protected]) 13,861 views 

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

Walmart is a stepping stone for retail industry executives who spend a few years at the retail giant and then leave for jobs with other companies. The most high profile is Brian Cornell, CEO of Target since mid-2014. Cornell spent three years at Walmart as the CEO of Sam’s Club. Prior to that he was CEO of Michaels.

During his short tenure at Sam’s Club, the club’s revenue grew to $53.8 billion, a gain of $6 billion over his three years at the helm. When Cornell left Walmart, Sam’s Club was seen as the shining star in the retail giant’s portfolio compared with the struggling Walmart U.S. stores. Cornell earned total compensation of $5.043 million his last year at Walmart.

Target continues to be a formidable retail competitor for Walmart and Amazon. While there have been short-term challenges from COVID-19 the mass retailer is still considered one of the best run in the industry, according to Barclays analyst Karen Short.

“Unprecedented volatility within the quarter presented the most extreme test of our business and operations that I could have imagined. And in that environment, we drove industry-leading growth with a total comp sales increase of 10.8% and digital comp growth of more than 140%,” Cornell said during Target’s recent earnings call.

As Target’s chairman and CEO Cornell earned $18.938 million last year. Target has more than 368,000 employees and operates 1,868 U.S. stores, mostly in larger urban areas.

Joel Anderson served as president and CEO of from 2011 to 2014. He left to become the chief operating officer and president of Five Below, a position he held for one year before becoming the discounter’s CEO. Anderson spent seven years at Walmart, starting as a senior vice president, before becoming CEO of He reported to Neil Ashe during his tenure at and the business was worth about $10 billion when he left in 2014.

Brian Cornell, Target CEO

Anderson oversees the management of 900 discount stores in 36 states. The discounter is based in Philadelphia and caters to teens and young consumers with products priced under $10, most under $5. He earns about $2 million per year. His salary as CEO of was not made public.

During Anderson’s tenure as CEO at Five Below the retail chain has grown sales revenue from $832 million and 405 stores to $1.8 billion, and 900 stores in 36 states. Over the 5-year period sales have increased by 20%.and the number of stores has more than doubled.

Neil Ashe served as president and CEO of Walmart Global eCommerce and Technology from January 2012 to January 2017 when he was replaced by founder Marc Lore. During Ashe’s time at Walmart the company invested heavily in building e-commerce fulfillment centers and adding technology talent with nearly a dozen acquisitions of tech startups.

Walmart’s e-commerce business nearly tripled in size and Walmart’s online grocery and Walmart Pay were also innovations that came under his purview. Walmart’s e-commerce sales totaled $11.5 billion at the end of 2016, just prior to Ashe’s departure. Walmart expects its global e-commerce billion to top $50 billion this year.

Ashe became a principal at Faster Horses in 2017, a private venture capital firm investing in digital companies seeking expansion. In January, Ashe became CEO of Acuity Brands, an Atlanta-based electrical manufacturing operation. Ashe oversees a workforce of 12,000 with annual revenue of $3.6 billion. Ashe signed a contract for a base salary of $1 million, with added bonuses and deferred compensation based on performance, according to a filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission.

Ashley Buchanan also got a new gig in January. He left as the chief merchant officer for Walmart U.S. eCommerce to become president and CEO of craft giant Michaels. Buchanan now oversees operations in 1,260 stores across 49 states and Canada with 12,000 employees.

Buchanan joined the retail giant in 2007 as director of innovations for Walmart U.S. He became an officer three years later and moved to Walmart’s grocery division. From there he became the chief merchandising officer at Sam’s Club, a position he held before his six-month gig at Walmart U.S. eCommerce. Buchanan’s annual pay is estimated at $3.74 million. Michaels revenue for this year is expected to be $4.94 billion, down 2.6% given COVID-19 challenges, according to Wall Street consensus. His salary during the time at Walmart was not made public.

Grocery veteran Jack Sinclair spent almost eight years at Walmart helping to grow and improve the fresh grocery business from 2007 to 2015. Sinclair left Walmart in 2015 after rising to the rank of executive vice president of grocery and reporting to Greg Foran, CEO of Walmart U.S.

Sinclair joined the 99-cents Store in July 2015 and was promoted to CEO in February 2018. There Sinclair ran 350 discount stores with gross revenue of $2.1 billion and 17,200 employees. In July 2019, Sinclair was named CEO of Sprouts Farmer’s Market grocery chain, focusing on fresh and organic foods.

When Sinclair took over at Sprouts, the grocery chain had more than 300 stores with 30,000 employees and annual revenue of $5.6 billion. Wall Street expects Sprouts revenue to grow 11% to $6.26 billion this year. His first-year salary in this role was $1.1 million with bonus and performance compensation totaling $5.77 million.

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