“This is a very natural progression,” said Brian Sozzi, CEO and chief equities strategist at Belus Capital Advisors. “Wal-Mart’s engine of growth has been international.”
McMillon and Duke were not immediately available for comment.
McMillon faces challenges. Wal-Mart is seeing its low-income shoppers in the U.S. struggling with stagnant wages and rising costs. At the same time, Wal-Mart faces fierce competition from online competitors and dollar chains that offer convenience and lower prices.
The company also has image problems. Wal-Mart is being pressured to further increase its oversight of factory conditions abroad following a building collapse in April in Bangladesh that killed more than 1,127 garment workers. And it continues to face criticism over its treatment of its hourly workers.
Additionally, allegations of bribery in Wal-Mart’s Mexico operations that surfaced in April 2012 have slowed business overseas. Wal-Mart allegedly failed to notify law enforcement that company officials authorized millions of dollars in bribes in Mexico to speed up getting building permits and gains other favors.
The New York Times, which broke the story, reported that Wal-Mart officials, including Duke, were allegedly informed starting in 2005 about the bribes. McMillon was not linked to the incident because he wasn’t working in the international division at the time.
Dave Tovar, a Wal-Mart spokesman, told The Associated Press that Duke’s decision to leave Wal-Mart was “a personal one,” and had nothing to do with the bribery allegations. “He decided it was time to retire,” said Tovar, who added that Duke approached Walton and the board voted Friday.
Duke will remain as chairman of the executive committee of the board. In the tradition of his predecessors, he will stay on as an advisor to McMillon for one year.
Meanwhile, the company said it plans to name McMillon’s successor by the end of its fiscal year in early 2014.