Wal-Mart Stores Inc. last Friday said that Brian Cornell, who is credited with helping Sam's Club regain its sales momentum, is leaving the company. Rosalind Brewer, who ran Walmart's eastern division, will take over as the warehouse club's CEO.
Mr. Cornell, who formerly ran Michaels Stores before taking over Sam's in 2009, is returning to the Northeast for family reasons.
"My wife and I want to put down roots in the Northeast and live in the same ZIP code as our children — not just occasionally seeing them in hotels and restaurants," Mr. Cornell said in the company's news release.
Under his watch, food and private label offerings were expanded and a refocus to cater to more-upscale customers helped Sam's compete better against its more successful rival, Costco. In the third quarter, Sam's comps increased 5.7 percent, dwarfing the 1.3 percent increase at U.S. Walmart stores.
With the success he brought to Sam's Club, Mr. Cornell, 52, was considered a potential future CEO at Walmart by insiders at the company, according to the Wall Street Journal. But they also said that given his short time at Walmart, he would likely have had to go on to run Walmart's U.S. or international division before being eligible to one day succeed Walmart CEO Mike Duke.
"Brian has done a terrific job at Sam's Club," Mr. Duke said in a statement. "He is a strong, high-energy leader who has delivered great results and leaves behind a business with outstanding momentum."
Ms. Brewer, 49, was most recently president of the Walmart's U.S. east business unit, where she was responsible for more than $100 billion in annual revenue, representing almost 1,600 stores and more than 500,000 associates. Prior to Walmart, Ms. Brewer worked for Kimberly-Clark, eventually becoming president of a key business sector in 2004.
"I have seen her develop into a talented merchant and retailer," said Mr. Duke. "She has strong strategic, analytical and operational skills and has successfully managed a large and complex business".
Ms. Brewer's hiring received some mainstream media attention because she became both the first woman as well as the first African-American to lead one of Walmart's business units. Walmart also promoted two other women: Gisel Ruiz to chief operating officer for Walmart U.S., and Karenann Terrell to chief information officer.
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