Cornell departs Sam’s, Brewer becomes first female CEO
BENTONVILLE, Ark. — In an unexpected turn of events, Brian Cornell is stepping down as Sam’s Club president and CEO and will be replaced by Rosalind Brewer who currently serves as president of the Walmart U.S. East business unit. The company announced a number of other senior personnel changes as well in advance of new fiscal year.
In a statement, Walmart said Cornell, 52, recently informed the company that he and his wife would like to move back to the Northeast for family reasons. His departure comes as Sam’s has experienced strong sales growth.
“Brian has done a terrific job at Sam’s Club,” said Walmart president and CEO Mike Duke. “He is a strong, high-energy leader who has delivered great results and leaves behind a business with outstanding momentum. In addition to building a talented, high-functioning team to run that business, he has also developed other leaders who now hold senior positions around the globe.”
Cornell said being part of the Sam’s Club family was a wonderful personal and professional experience he will always value.
“I have felt at home here and have a strong connection to the associates, the company and its values and mission,” Cornell said. “However, after 30 years of asking my family to follow me all around the globe, it is time to put them first. 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.”
With his departure, Rosalind Brewer, 49, is promoted to president and CEO of Sam’s Club, reporting to Duke, effective Feb. 1. Brewer was most recently president of the Walmart 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. Brewer was also the first chairperson of the Walmart President’s Council of Global Women Leaders.
“Roz came to us with an outstanding background in consumer packaged goods more than five years ago,” said Duke. “During that time I have seen her develop into a talented merchant and retailer. She has strong strategic, analytical and operational skills and has successfully managed a large and complex business. I’ve also been struck by Roz’s servant leadership when I have visited stores with her. She always lets her team do the talking, with her focus being on how to better support their needs.”
Prior to Walmart, Brewer worked for Kimberly-Clark.
In other changes, Walmart said Rollin Ford was named chief administrative officer with specific areas of responsibility including the information systems division, global sourcing, global business processes, global shared services and global customer insights. Ford was most recently the company’s chief information officer, and will continue reporting to Duke.
Ford will play an important role in helping the company meet its commitment to reduce SG&A expenses as a percentage of sales by more than 100 basis points over the next five years. Ford’s efforts will include a focus on leveraging scale, reducing expenses and increasing productivity around the world.
“Rollin has played a key role in driving process improvement and leveraging technology in the past and will now have broad responsibility for some of the key areas that give us the greatest opportunity,” Duke said. “His new position enables us to capitalize on his experience in our information systems, logistics and supply chain divisions, as well as his strength in teambuilding and ability to lead across multiple organizations.”
With Ford in a new role, Walmart elevated Karenann Terrell to the position of CIO where she will be responsible for the company’s global technology systems including stores and clubs, supply chain, merchandising and enterprise platforms. Terrell joined Walmart two years ago and was most recently Walmart’s assistant chief information officer and will continue reporting to Ford.
“Karenann has brought a wealth of experience to the organization, along with a technology foundation that will continue to serve Walmart well,” said Ford. “She has embraced our mission and our values and has a passion for supporting our customers around the world. I’m confident that, in her new role, she will take Walmart’s information systems division to a whole new level.”
And in another major development, Walmart elevated Gisel Ruis to the role of EVP and COO of Walmart U.S. reporting to divisional president and CEO Bill Simon. Ruiz previously served as EVP people for Walmart U.S. In her new role she will be responsible for company’s U.S. operations, which cover more than 3,800 stores and include Supercenters, discount stores, Neighborhood Markets and Walmart Express formats. All three regional business unit presidents will report to her.
“I'm incredibly excited to see Gisel’s impact on the stores,” said Simon. “She started in our stores, ran stores and, more importantly, understands the perspective of our associates like no one else on our leadership team. That’s invaluable. For nearly 20 years, Gisel has proven herself to be a strong and capable operator, manager, teacher, retail executive and role model for our culture.”
As tends to be the case where Walmart makes a series of high level personnel moves the company uses the occasion to tout the depth of its bench strength.
“We are very intentional about developing talent to meet the needs of our rapidly growing business worldwide,” said CEO Duke. “The promotions we are announcing today are clear evidence that our succession and management development programs work, and that we have highly talented, well-rounded and experienced business leaders ready to step into larger roles when the opportunities arise.”