The Supply Side: Former Walmart executives find new career challenges

by Kim Souza ([email protected]) 4,643 views 

Walmart executives cycle in and out of their top jobs, and many use the retail giant as a training ground, given the company’s diverse business model and propensity to promote from within. Walmart is also known as a great resume builder.

But the demands of top jobs aren’t for everyone. Some have said one Walmart year is like five years with another company. Walmart also holds its executives to two-year non-compete clauses with direct retail competitors whether they leave mid-career or retire at an older age.

In 2017, Claire Babineaux-Fontenot walked away from Walmart, where she spent 13 years, rising to the role of global treasurer in 2014. In that job, she oversaw international relations, global risk management, casualty, and self-insurance and managed more than 1,000 employees in 28 countries. Before that, she worked as chief tax officer for the retailer.

She walked away from a seven-figure salary at Walmart in 2017 when she assumed the CEO role for Chicago-based Feeding America.

Through a network of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs, Feeding America annually provides more than 4 billion meals to people facing hunger in the United States. Ranked as the third largest charity by Forbes magazine, Feeding America also supports programs that prevent food waste and improve food security among the people it serves.

Claire Babineaux-Fontenot

“As one of the over 100 children raised by my parents through biology, adoption and foster care, I saw the ravages of hunger firsthand, as many of my siblings entered our home with visible signs of malnutrition. I will harness my learnings from working in some incredibly successful organizations toward the passion of my life, the fight against hunger,” Babineaux-Fontenot said in 2018.

Babineaux-Fontenot oversaw $4.48 billion in revenue last year with operating expenses of $4.45 billion. She travels the country speaking and working with donors and partners who seek to eradicate food insecurity by 2030. She earns a salary of $911,000 annually as CEO of Feeding America.

Scott Price was executive vice president of global leverage and CEO of Walmart Asia, responsible for the company’s operations in China, Japan and India. At the time, Walmart had a significant presence in Asia with nearly 130,000 associates, more than 850 store units and e-commerce websites in China, Japan and India. Price also worked with Babineaux-Fontenot at Walmart from 2014 through 2017.

After leaving Walmart in late 2017, Price joined UPS as chief strategy officer and soon after became international president, where he earned a base salary of $912,151 along with restricted stock holdings. Price was based in Atlanta while running UPS International through March 31. Price earned total compensation of $9.53 million in his last full year at UPS.

After Price retired from UPS, he moved to Hong Kong in June to become CEO of DFI Retail Group, a $28 billion business with 200,000 employees. In June, Price announced in a social media post that he was “excited to join DFI Retail.” His salary for the new job has not yet been reported.

“Having spent many years in the retail and express delivery industries in Asia, I’m delighted to return to Hong Kong to lead one of the most prominent Pan-Asian retailers,” Price said.

Scott Price

DFI Retail had total sales of $9.17 billion for 2022. The retail conglomerate posted a net loss of $141.9 million for the year. In the first half of 2023, the company reported total sales of $4.57 billion, flat to a year ago. Net income totaled $28.5 million compared to a loss of $23.2 million last year.

“We have been encouraged by the pace of recovery in our business and improved trading conditions in the first half of the year, driven by the reopening of the Hong Kong border and continued recovery in our Southeast Asian markets,” the company noted in the July 28 half-year earnings report.

Steve Bratspies, who moved up the Walmart exec ladder for 15 years to become chief merchandising officer, left the retailer in early 2020 to become the CEO of HanesBrands.

Bratspies joined Walmart in 2005 as vice president of category marketing. In 2007, he was promoted to senior vice president of marketing, overseeing all marketing aspects for each merchandise category and the Walmart brand. He was executive vice president of food for Walmart U.S. and was named chief merchandising officer in October 2015.

In January 2020, Bratspies said it was time for a change, and by that summer, he had relocated to Winston-Salem, N.C., for his new job. He replaced Gerald Evans Jr. as CEO, who held that position for 37 years.

Steve Bratspies

Last year the company saw net sales decline 8% to $6.23 billion, which included a $182 million negative impact from foreign exchange rates. Net income fell 16.2% from the prior year, and the gross margin at 35.6% was down from 39% in fiscal 2021.

In the first half of fiscal 2023, net sales of $2.82 billion were down 4.9% from a year ago. The company recorded a net loss of $56.86 million through the first half of this year. The bulk of the decline was from sagging activewear sales.

“We’re confident in our ability to exit the year with gross margin in the high 30% range, generate $500 million of operating cash flow, and pay down more than $400 million of debt, despite the difficult apparel market, particularly in Australia and the U.S. activewear category, which caused us to adjust our second-half outlook,” Bratspies noted in the Aug. 10 earnings results.

HanesBrands, in early August, confirmed it is closing its Arkansas hosiery production plant in Clarksville at the end of September. The move shutters a plant that once employed at least 570 in the seat of Johnson County. The company declined to say how many the plant now employs.

Chandra Holt

Last year Bratspies earned total compensation of $9.21 million, which included a base salary of $1.22 million. Total income was down from $11.30 million earned in 2021 because of a $2.69 million performance bonus absent in 2022.

Chandra Holt jumped off the Walmart train in August 2021. She was the retailer’s chief merchandising officer her last year. During her six-year tenure at Walmart, Holt also held several executive positions at Sam’s Club.

She left Walmart to take over as CEO of Texas-based Conn’s HomePlus, a furniture and appliance retailer. Holt held that position for about one year.

She earned more than $11.5 million in compensation in 2022. Holt resigned from that position in October 2022 amid double-digit net losses and negative operating margins.

Holt has yet to make her plans known as she has not updated her LinkedIn post, which still shows she is working as CEO. The company lists Norman Miller as interim president & CEO and director. Miller replaced Holt in October last year on a temporary basis.

Editor’s note: The Supply Side section of Talk Business & Politics focuses on the companies, organizations, issues and individuals engaged in providing products and services to retailers. The Supply Side is managed by Talk Business & Politics and sponsored by Propak Logistics.