Cornell Out, Brewer In at Sam's

BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Brian Cornell has resigned as president and chief executive officer of Sam’s Club, leading to a series of top-level changes at Wal-Mart-Stores [5], the chain’s parent company.

Cornell, a former Safeway executive credited for leading a strong sales rebound at Sam’s, recently told the company that he and his wife would like to move back to the Northeast for family reasons, Wal-Mart said. With his departure, Rosalind G. Brewer, 49, will take over as president and CEO of Sam’s Club effective Feb. 1, becoming the first woman CEO at the chain. Brewer was most recently president of Wal-Mart’s U.S. East business unit, with nearly 1,600 stores and more than $100 billion in annual revenues.

Her appointment — along with another promotion of a woman executive to a top operations post at Walmart U.S. — comes as Wal-Mart battles accusations of gender discrimination. The company won a Supreme Court victory in what would have been the largest gender-based class-action lawsuit in history last year, but attorneys in that case have pledged to continue to pursue a case.

Wal-Mart said Brewer brings a strong CPG background to the helm of the nation’s second-largest warehouse-club chain.

“Roz came to us with an outstanding background in consumer packaged goods more than five years ago,” Mike Duke, Wal-Mart’s CEO, said in a statement. “During that time I have seen her develop into a talented merchant and retailer. She has strong strategic, analytical and operational skills and has successfully managed a large and complex business.”

Prior to Wal-Mart, Brewer worked for Kimberly-Clark in various positions, eventually becoming president of a sector in 2004.

Duke said Cornell “has done a terrific job at Sam’s Club,” citing his “great results” and leadership development.

“Being part of the Sam’s Club family has been a wonderful personal and professional experience, one that I will always value,” said Cornell. “However, after 30 years of asking my family to follow me all around the globe, it is time to put them first. My wife and I want to put down roots in the Northeast and live in the same ZIP code as our children — not just occasionally seeing them in hotels and restaurants.”

Wal-Mart also said Rollin Ford, 49, has been promoted to chief administrative officer; Gisel Ruiz will take over as vice president and chief operating officer of Walmart U.S.; and Karenann Terrellis has been promoted to chief information officer, effective Feb. 1.

Ford was most recently the company’s chief information officer, and will continue reporting to Duke.

Ruiz, 41, will be responsible for the company’s U.S. operations, which cover more than 3,800 stores and include supercenters, discount stores, Neighborhood Markets and Walmart Express formats. Ruiz most recently was executive vice president of people for Wal-Mart U.S.. She began her career at Walmart U.S. as a store management trainee in 1992.

Terrell, 50, will be responsible for the company’s global technology systems. She most recently was Wal-Mart’s assistant chief information officer, and will continue reporting to Ford.

Prior to Wal-Mart, Brewer worked for Kimberly-Clark, progressing through various positions and eventually becoming president of a key business sector in 2004.