History of Walmart's CEOs & Founder


© History Oasis


  • Sam Walton (1962-1988)
  • David Glass (1988-2000)
  • H. Lee Scott (2000-2009)
  • Mike Duke (2009-2014)
  • Doug McMillon (2014-present)


Portrait of Sam Walton
© History Oasis

Sam Walton, an ambitious businessman seeking new opportunities, established the first Walmart store in 1962 in Rogers, Arkansas. capitalizing on the growth of suburban America and its affinity for one-stop shopping conveniences, Waltman rapidly expanded his chain of discount stores across the state over the next decade.

Embracing innovative logistics and inventory management strategies, by 1970 Walmart was generating over $31 million in annual revenues and began attracting attention from major retailers struggling to compete.

Though initially focused on smaller towns often ignored by larger chains, Waltman drove Walmart’s national expansion throughout the 1980s and 1990s until it became the world’s largest retailer, fundamentally changing America’s retail landscape before his death in 1992 at age 74.

Viewed by many as both an exemplar and controversial figure of American entrepreneurial capitalism in action, Waltman and the Walmart juggernaut left an indelible imprint on the global economy.

DAVID GLASS (1988-2000)

portrait of David Glass
© History Oasis

Ascending to the chief executive role after Sam Waltman's death in 1992, David Glass oversaw a period of tremendous growth and innovation that cemented Walmart's dominance in American retail.

Implementing an advanced supply chain management strategy and pioneering the supercenter retail concept, Glass increased Walmart's annual revenues from $44 billion to over $165 billion by the time he transitioned out of the CEO position in 2000.

Though criticized by some as overly focused on cost-cutting and short-term profits, even Glass's detractors acknowledged the transformative impact he had in modernizing Walmart's operations and accelerating its rise into a global retail juggernaut.

H. LEE SCOTT (2000-2009)

portrait of Lee Scott
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Taking the reins from David Glass, H. Lee Scott led Walmart through a turbulent period of increasing competition and criticism even as he expanded its international footprint and online retail operations.

Committing Walmart to more environmentally and socially conscious policies, Scott pioneered initiatives around sustainability, health care, and workplace equality, though some argued his efforts were insufficient to address structural issues stemming from Walmart's enormous size and influence.

By the end of Scott’s nine year tenure in which he increased Walmart’s total sales near $400 billion, the retail behemoth’s dominance was firmly established but so too was its complex and often controversial role in 21st century global commerce.

MIKE DUKE (2009-2014)

portrait of Mike Duke
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Steering Walmart through the tumultuous wake of the global financial crisis, CEO Mike Duke sought to solidify Walmart’s recent gains through an emphasis on improving customer service and modernizing operations to cater to the rise of online shopping.

Though Duke restored stronger profit margins while navigating aggressive unionization efforts and bribery investigations across Walmart’s global operations, critics argued his leadership lacked major innovations amidst rapidly evolving consumer habits and technology.

When Duke retired in early 2014 after five years as CEO, Walmart remained the world’s undisputed brick-and-mortar retail leader but faced growing uncertainty around its place in a digital commercial landscape increasingly dominated by the likes of Amazon and Alibaba.


portrait of Doug McMillon
© History Oasis

Inheriting the mantle in 2014 amidst unprecedented upheaval in the traditional retail sector, CEO Doug McMillon has attempted to refashion Walmart into a potent omnichannel shopping juggernaut emphasizing digital integration across its global operations.

Embracing innovations from automated warehouses to proprietary online grocery delivery, McMillon aims to retain dominance in physical shopping while future-proofing Walmart against e-commerce rivals like Amazon through strategic acquisitions, billion-dollar investments in technical infrastructure, and targeted cost-cutting initiatives to retool the oft-criticized retail giant.

The success of McMillon’s ambitious transformation agenda remains an unfinished story still unfolding, but will surely shape Walmart’s trajectory in this disruptive new era dramatically reshaping the global marketplace.