Wal-Mart at 50: A Not-So-Short History Of the World's Largest Retailer

by Eric Francis  on Monday, Jul. 2, 2012 12:00 am  


• Writing in the company’s annual report after his first year as president and CEO, Michael T. Duke says, “I was continually impressed with Wal-Mart’s opportunity to lead on big issues in the world. ... We live at a time and in a world that I believe truly calls out for Wal-Mart and the work that our two million associates do every day.” By the way, that employee count is equal to about two-thirds of the population of Wal-Mart’s home state, according to the 2010 Census.


• Rosalind Brewer, 49, is promoted to CEO of Wal-Mart’s Sam’s Club division, becoming the first woman and the first African-American to hold the CEO position at a Wal-Mart business unit.

• After holding the top spot in the Fortune 500 rankings from 2002 through 2009, then losing it to Exxon Mobil in 2010, Wal-Mart held onto the No. 1 position for the second consecutive year with $421.85 billion in earnings. That was more than the earnings of No. 3 Chevron Corp. ($196 billion) and No. 4 ConocoPhillips ($184 billion) combined.

• Designed by legendary architect Moshe Safdie and filled with some of the most significant artistic works from the 1700s to the present day, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art opens in Bentonville on 11/11/11. The brainchild of Alice Walton, who donated from her personal collection as well as overseeing a long acquisition process (that raised eyebrows and hackles among many in the art world), it is the first major museum focusing on American art to open in 50 years. It receives rave reviews.


• The New York Times reports that Wal-Mart de Mexico, the largest foreign subsidiary of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., has for years orchestrated a campaign of bribery among Mexican officials in order to obtain permits to build new stores. Questions are raised about whether the company broke both Mexican and American laws by doing so, and calls are made for a U.S. government investigation.

• In its 50th anniversary year, Wal-Mart ranks No. 16 in Forbes magazine’s Global 2000 ranking of public companies (behind mostly oil companies and banking interests), though it is second in terms of overall sales and is the world’s largest private employer with 2.2 million associates. Its current annual report shows company notched $15.8 billion in earnings on net sales of $443.9 billion for the fiscal year that ended in January. Since 1962 it has returned $101 billion to shareholders.



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