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Walmart U.S. recruits top exec from India to Bentonville

story by Kim Souza
ksouza@thecitywire.com

Wal-Mart CEO Doug McMillon continues to draft his U.S. management team from around the globe. New Walmart U.S. CEO Greg Foran is an Australian who was managing the retailer’s China operation. Now the retailer is bringing Arvind Mediratta, its top executive in India, to be the senior vice president in the retailer’s U.S. business unit.

Wal-Mart spokeswoman Jo Newbould confirmed with The City Wire on Monday (Aug. 25) that Mediratta was coming to Bentonville. On Tuesday (Aug. 26) Newbould said Mediratta will not report to Foran in his new U.S. assignment, reversing a statement she made on Monday.

Alan Ellstrand, a corporate governance expert from the University of Arkansas, said it’s not unusual for a new CEO to assemble his own team of leaders. In the case of McMillon, who has served on the world stage, Ellstrand said he has no doubt seen some of the best operators in the world, having worked with them closely in recent years. McMillon was CEO of Wal-Mart’s international operations before being picked as the corporate CEO.

Ellstrand said many of Wal-Mart’s international businesses are much further along in small format management, a relatively new concept for Walmart U.S.

Judith McKenna was recently moved to Bentonville from ASDA, the retailer’s British grocery unit. In Bentonville, she is heading up innovation and strategy for small format stores in the U.S. as chief development officer for Walmart U.S.

“Wal-Mart’s new U.S. team is starting to resemble a United Nation’s cast from the world stage; interesting concept but not really surprising given that Wal-Mart is a global retailer today,” Ellstrand said. “This global cast will no doubt have different points of view resulting from their diverse backgrounds.”

Newbould did not say whom Mediratta was replacing or if he is filling a new position.

Mediratta, chief operating officer for Wal-Mart’s Indian unit, has spent nearly three years overseeing Wal-Mart’s Cash and Carry business unit in India. Prior to that he spent nearly five years in the Walmart/Bharti venture. He was recruited to Bharti from YUM! Brands where he served as chief marketing officer for two years in the company’s South Asia division. He also spent time at Whirlpool and Procter & Gamble.

Mediratta has 23 years experience in general management, marketing and sales. Most recently overseeing all the functions of Best Price Modern Wholesale in India, a business he is said to have crafted from the ground up. He was in charge of  buying, merchandising, operations, sales, business development, marketing, membership, finance, logistics, supply chain and store planning.

This is a close match to the job description of Duncan Mac Naughton, chief merchandising and marketing officer for Walmart U.S., who is responsible for all aspects of buying, merchandising, marketing efforts, including customer research and business development, sales strategy, e-commerce marketing, private brands and customer communications, according to Wal-Mart’s corporate biographies.

Mac Naughton’s days at Wal-Mart Stores could be few. Some close watchers of the Wal-Mart corporate world say Mac Naughton may follow Bill Simon, former Walmart U.S. CEO, out the door. Simon was not picked to be Wal-Mart CEO, and Mac Naughton was considered a candidate for the Wal-Mart U.S. CEO job to which Foran was promoted.

Ellstrand said he had no knowledge of corporate moves at Wal-Mart, added that when a high level executive is passed over for promotion, an exit from the company is likely with a few months time.

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“Executives that are passed over for promotion can feel they have less influence in the new team chemistry and transitions can be awkward,” Ellstrand said. “High level execs have options they can explore elsewhere, especially when they have spent several years in the executive suite of a major corporation.”

Analysts said Foran and the team he is assembling have their work cut out for them given the lagging same-store sales over six consecutive quarters. He is seen as a merchant operator at heart having worked in retail from the age of 15 where he started as a stocker.

Foran said during the recent earnings call he would be out in the stores, improving customer service while whittling down inventory and growing sales.

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Comments

Foran, Corbett and Big W aka Walmart in Australia

Greg Foran is a Kiwi (from NZ) -- not Australian. But this simple oversight raises an interesting point; why hasn't Walmart pursued copyright/legal action against Woolworths and Big W in Australia? Under the direction of Foran and Corbett (a Walmart Board of Director no less!), those companies clearly plagiarized some of Walmart's key marketing coin phrases (Rollback, We Sell for Less, Always Low Prices, among others) and images (namely the smiley face). If you've ever set foot in an Australian Big W, it is a blatant ripoff of Walmart -- except 30 years behind the times.