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Walmart announced this morning that Mike Duke, 63, is retiring from his job as CEO of the company, and will be succeeded by Doug McMillon, 47, who has been running Walmart's international business.

The change is scheduled to take place February 1. McMillon will be just the fifth CEO of the company founded by Sam Walton since it went public in 1970.

Duke will stay with Walmart as chairman of the executive committee. No replacement for McMillon in the international job has yet been named.

Bloomberg Businessweek writes that "McMillon, who first worked at Wal-Mart as a summer employee in 1984, will grab the reins as the retailer tries to restore U.S. sales growth with Inc. and dollar stores luring away its customers. Overseas, where McMillon was in charge, Wal-Mart has been accelerating its expansion in China and other emerging markets while probing allegations of bribery in Mexico and possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act … The U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating allegations that Wal-Mart systematically bribed Mexican officials so it could more quickly open stores in the country. Federal and local government agencies in Mexico also are involved in investigations. Wal-Mart has said that it also has started inquiries into potential violations of the FCPA at operations in Brazil, India and China."

The Wall Street Journal reports that McMillon "has served on the board of Wal-Mart de Mexico since 2009 as the company has worked to deal with a federal investigation into possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in the country in the middle of the last decade. The company has said it is cooperating with the investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission and Justice Department."

The Businessweek story notes that McMillon was one of three people in line for Duke's job, with one other prominent name being Bill Simon, who runs Walmart's US business. McMillon is said to be close to the Walton family, which may have tipped the scales in his favor, despite the cloud that seems to hanging over the company's international expansion efforts.

In a statement, Walmart's chairman, Rob Walton, said in part that, "a merchant at heart, Doug has both a long history with our company and a keen sense of where our customers globally are heading next."
KC's View:
Duke's departure has been rumored for some time now, but it is hard to judge whether this is a matter of the rumors finally coming true, or nature just taking its course.

I guess Walmart must have a lot of confidence in its ability to survive all the international bribery allegations, or it would not have named the guy running international to the top job. Either they think they're innocent, or they think that they have enough political and financial capital to make the charges go away.

The major question that needs to be answered, I think, is whether McMillon can bring enough objectivity to the role to see where the problems at Walmart really are, where what have been described as "core values" really are just practices with a lot of dust on them, and how the company must re-engineer itself to compete in a world where Amazon seems to be dictating many of the rules of the game.

Does he have the ability to make those changes and address these issues? Or is he just a Walmart lifer who buys his suits and gets his haircuts and engages with the community in all the same places where Walmart CEOs always have done so?