Walmart shuffles execs: Simon becomes head of U.S. stores

BENTONVILLE, Ark. (June 29, 2010) — Bill Simon was given one of the biggest jobs in retail on June 29 when he was named president and CEO of Walmart U.S., assuming vice chairman Eduardo Castro-Wright’s responsibilities for the $258 billion division.

Simon previously served as COO of the U.S. division and reported to Castro-Wright. He will now report directly to Walmart president and CEO Mike Duke. Castro-Wright will retain his title of vice chairman and become president and CEO of the new Global.com, an organization Walmart created last year and also oversee global sourcing from Walmart’s online headquarters in California.

“[Bill Simon] is a talented strategist who will focus on growing our U.S. business by increasing customers traffic, upholding our price leadership and making sure that we have the right products in every store,” Duke wrote in a memo distributed to employees the company posted on its website.

Duke also called Castro-Wright a visionary thinker who made extraordinary contributions at Walmart over the past five years and would continue to do so as head of the Global.com and global sourcing efforts.

“We’re fortunate to have someone as strategic and knowledgeable as Eduardo driving these initiatives forward. With Eduardo’s leadership, we will create the world’s leading e-commerce business and we’ll leverage our global supply chain to deliver even greater value to our customers.”

Castro-Wright will best be remembered as the architect of Project Impact and the broad slate of transformational merchandising, marketing an operations initiatives that program entailed. His reassignment was motivated in part by a desire to be closer to his wife who is recovering from a heart transplant in California. Castro-Wright will transition to his new role by Aug. 1, while Simon assumes leadership of the U.S. stores division immediately.

“We must remember who we are and our responsibility to the customer we serve everyday,” Simon said in memo to Walmart associates. “Our every day low pricing is what give 140 million customers each week the confidence to shop our stores. We have an incredibly strong culture, built upon the simple retail principles Sam Walton taught us: namely, that everyone at Walmart is a merchant. Every home office associate and every store associate should be thinking about items that our customers need and want. We will raise our focus on selling the products and assortment that our customers want at the best prices in the land.”

Simon also extended an olive branch to the retailer’s supplier community, many of whom had been alienated by such elements of Project Impact as demands for more marketing funds and reduced product assortments.

“Our business has been built over the years through a very close partnership with our suppliers,” Simon said. “I look forward to building on those partnerships in the coming weeks and months. Their ideas, products and energy has helped fuel our growth for almost 50 years and is an important part of our future.”

For Simon, the promotion to president and CEO of the U.S division is the latest in a series of promotion that began shortly after he joined the company in March 2006 as EVP of what was known at the time as the specialty division where he had oversight of such areas as pharmacy, optical, photo, Tire and Lube Express and in-store cell phone departments called Connection Centers. In that capacity he reported to Castro-Wright.

Shortly after arriving at the company, he was named EVP professional services and new business development, and then in early 2007 he assumed the roll of EVP and COO of the U.S. stores division and continues to report to Castro-Wright.

Simon arrived at Walmart with a diverse professional background. He had previously served as SVP global business development at the Brinker International food service company where he was responsible for the growth of the restaurant chains Chili’s, Romano’s Macaroni Grill, On the Border and Maginot’s Little Italy restaurants. He also managed the operation of all restaurants outside the United States.

Prior to Brinker, Simon worked as the Secretary of the Department of Management Services for the State of Florida, a position he was appointed to in 2003 by then governor Jeb Bush. He also has 15 years experience working for top consumer brands, including serving as president of the Southeast region of Diageo, and several positions in marketing and development for such companies as Cadbury-Schweppes, PepsiCo and RJR-Nabisco. He also served in the U.S. Navy and Navy Reserve, retiring as a lieutenant commander in 2005.

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