Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

c.2013 New York Times News Service

As Wal-Mart enters a fiercely competitive holiday season while still hampered by sluggish sales, the company’s board of directors announced Monday that Michael T. Duke, its chief executive, would retire early next year and a longtime executive, C. Douglas McMillon, would replace him.

McMillon, president of Wal-Mart International, will take the helm Feb. 1, just after the holiday season, the company announced. McMillon, 47, was also elected to the company’s board of directors effective immediately and Duke will help with the transition.

“Doug is uniquely positioned to lead our growing global company and to serve the changing customer, while remaining true to our culture and values,” Rob Walton, chairman of Wal-Mart’s board of directors, said in a statement. “He has broad experience — with successful senior leadership roles in all of Wal-Mart’s business segments — and a deep understanding of the economic, social and technological trends shaping our world.”

McMillon, 47, joined Wal-Mart in 1984 as a summer associate in a Wal-Mart Distribution Center. He rejoined the company in 1990 and has spent much of his time at Wal-Mart in merchandising. From 2006 to 2009, he was president of Sam’s Club.

Duke, 63, has been the company’s chief executive since 2009 and was vice chairman from 2005 to 2009.

“The opportunity to lead Wal-Mart is a great privilege,” McMillon said in the company’s statement. “Our company has a rich history of delivering value to customers across the globe and, as their needs grow and change, we will be there to serve them.”

McMillon’s new salary and compensation package was not released Monday.

According to recent filings, Duke’s salary was about $1.3 million, and his total compensation was roughly $20 million.

In recent weeks, Wal-Mart has been busily promoting its holiday deals, in one of the most competitive sales seasons in recent memory, driven partly because there is a very short window this year between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The company’s executives have noted that Wal-Mart’s core customer base remains very budget-conscious, hit by the end of the payroll tax holiday earlier this year and uneasiness over events like the federal budget shutdown. At the busiest time of the year, major retailers are already slashing prices and many are chipping away at the lure of Black Friday deals by offering them even earlier.

McMillon’s ascension is also occurring at a time when the company has announced major expansion plans in China.

David Tovar, vice president for corporate communications, said the timing of announcement about McMillon was dictated by the schedule of company board meetings — the November meeting is closest to the company’s new fiscal year, which begins Feb. 1.

“This was solely his decision, a personal decision Mike made to retire at this point,” Tovar said. “Other than playing a lot of golf, I don’t think he’s going to be working on anything at this point. He’s had a long retail career, even before he got to Wal-Mart.”