In the family way: Reese Witherspoon has news for Walmart's annual meeting

Star announces new chairman at family-controlled retail giant's annual meeting

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Rob Walton, the 70-year-old son of the Walmart's founder Sam, stepped down as chairman of the world's largest retailer yesterday after two decades in the role.

In that time he has overseen the world’s largest retailer’s expansion into a raft of new countries including the UK, where it bought Asda in 1999.

Who will succeed Walton?

Greg Penner is the heir apparent. The 45-year-old has held various roles within the budget retail giant including running its Japanese arm, but has spent the last decade investing Walton family money into a venture capital firm in Silicon Valley – Madrone Capital Partners.

So the family's loosening it's grip on Walmart?

Well, they still own about half the company's share. And he might not be a Walton by birth, but Mr Penner, who was already on the Walmart board, is by marriage. He is married to Carrie Walton, Rob Walton's daughter and the granddaughter of founder Sam Walton, who died in 1992. Mr Penner was anointed yesterday at a ceremony hosted by Hollywood star Reese Witherspoon.

Sorry, Reese Witherspoon?

Yes, Walmart’s shareholders meetings are glamorous affairs. The family has used its celebrity links to host an array of stars including Tom Cruise, Beyoncé and Elton John to much whooping from its thousands of staff in the audience.

So it’s like a cult?

Kind of. Founder Sam Walton opened his first Walmart in Bentonville, Arkansas, in 1962 and the retailer now dominates the town’s employment and the store is a museum. Sam Walton, who also lent his name to wholesale arm, Sam’s Club, is often held up as the embodiment of the American Dream ideal.