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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

New Wal-Mart CEO is company insider

This story first appeared in USA Today.

Arkansas native has spent is career at Wal-Mart, starting in 1984 as a summer associate in one of the company's distribution centers
Doug McMillon, Wal-Mart's new CEO, was asked in a 2008 interview what the biggest factor was in his success.

The executive, who ran Wal-Mart's Sam's Club discount warehouse business at the time, said it was what he learned during his first few months working at the world's largest retailer.

WAL-MART CEO:  Duke out, McMillon in

"Unless you're there, you don't really understand it, and when you're big, people may assume that you've got bad intentions," McMillon said. "I learned more in the first six months at Wal-Mart than I learned in 5 1/2 years of post-secondary education."

Originally from Jonesboro, Ark., McMillon, 47, started his career in 1984 as a summer associate at a Wal-Mart distribution center.

He got a B.S. in business administration from the University of Arkansas and an MBA from the University of Tulsa. While pursuing the MBA, he rejoined the company in a Tulsa Walmart store.

A lot of McMillon's 22 years at the company were spent in merchandising in the Walmart U.S. division, giving him with experience with food, apparel and general goods. From 2006 to February 2009, he ran Sam's Club and then took over Walmart International.

That deep Wal-Mart experience likely gave him leg up versus other candidates like Bill Simon, who runs Walmart U.S.

"Bill Simon was more of an outsider," said Sucharita Mulpuru, a retail analyst at Forrester Research. "It was going to be one of them."

McMillon also has a record of generating growth - both at Sam's Club and the International business, which he ran from Arkansas.

The International growth record has been marred by a bribery scandal in Mexico. However, the overseas operations have expanded swiftly irrespective of the impact of the business in Mexico, Mulpuru noted.

McMillon has been involved in the response to the scandal. During a Wal-Mart meeting with investors last month, he said the company now has a chief compliance officer and anti-corruption leader in each market around the world.

"One of the things we're doing right now as we speak is making sure that we've got all the right resources to make this a world class compliance effort within Wal-Mart," he said. "We've hired new people and we've realigned people into this global structure. And we now have through those efforts over 1,000 people that work full time on compliance."

Monday, November 11, 2013

Wolff: Happiness comes to Rupert Murdoch

Story originally appeared on USA Today.

Despite the hacking scandal, life is good for the 82-year-old media tycoon.

The trial of some of Rupert Murdoch's close associates, accused of telephone hacking, bribery, obstruction of justice and conspiracy, is now underway in London, threatening to expose ever-deeper veins of skulduggery in Murdoch's company. Surely a low point in his 60-year career.

And yet, Murdoch is telling people he may never have been happier in his life.

This is partly because he believes that he and his family have largely beaten the rap. But it is also a personal trait of Murdoch's, being able to write off the past, with both finesse and brutality. And for everything to turn out well for him.

His personal life, his work life and his family life, despite the threat of hackinggate, have all come into alignment. At 82, he believes he has set the stage for another 15 years.

Hackinggate rather seems to have given him the impetus, in some Godfather fashion, to settle scores and take care of business so he can get on with the next chapter of his epochal story.

First, he dealt with the long-standing friction of his marriage. Try as he might, for the 15 years he's been married to Wendi Deng, 39 years his junior, he has never wholly managed to effect a rapprochement between her and his adult children, who are, for Murdoch, the tent poles of his life. At the same time, he has found it hard to admit that his marriage was in difficulty, even as he and Deng increasingly lived apart.

It was Deng's telling moment in the sun — stepping between Murdoch and a pie wielder when he was called, two years ago, to testify about hacking before Parliament — that he has told friends crystallized his anger. He realized he did not want her protecting him now — making him look old, he felt, and weak — or his legacy later.

With the encouragement of his children, he began to plan his exit — his resolve aided by his closer monitoring of her personal life. In June, acting on new reports about her involvement with Google's executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, he summarily ended his marriage — to no one's greater surprise than his wife's.

His own hurt feelings have been soothed by a new romantic interest, a younger woman who has been traveling with him — his massage therapist — who, he has told friends, has made him very happy.

Oh, yes. And a month before he ended his marriage, he bought a $29 million vineyard in Bel Air, in the hills above Los Angeles, real estate (and a new hobby) his wife had no interest in. His decision to buy the vineyard, friends say, foreshadowed her fate.

Last June also saw the completion of the split of his company between its newspapers and its entertainment businesses. For almost 10 years, Murdoch had been facing continuing and ever more pointed complaints about the papers, about the money he spent on them and the time he put into them. Then, with hackinggate, the papers became an even fiercer lightning rod.

And so this painful split was forced on him. A business nadir.

But now he finds himself with a new company, with $3 billion in the bank and a rising share price — a company whose very purpose is to manage newspapers. Nobody is telling him he shouldn't be concerned about newspapers anymore. He's back in the proprietor's seat — in the action.

Nor, he has found, does he have to pretend anymore to be all that concerned with television or the movies, businesses always far more interesting to him for their profits than for their challenges. In Chase Carey, the chief operator of the television and movie company, Twenty-First Century Fox, and in Roger Ailes, the chief operator of Fox News, its most profitable division, he has found two adroit men who, with suitable obeisance, make him a lot of money and leave him little to do.

What's more, they have solved the pressing and at times intractable problem of his son James.

James is the forceful, aggressive, know-it-all son, whom almost everyone blames for mishandling the hacking scandal and to whom, for whatever reasons, the father has never been able to say no. Now saying no, and maneuvering James to where he can do no harm, is Chase Carey's job.

Still, of course, there is succession, which has always nagged at Murdoch — not just how to build a dynasty, but which child to choose to run it.

But now, instead of having only one company to give his children, he has two. The new company, with its big revenue coming from pay TV in Australia, is being specifically tailored for his son Lachlan, who lives in Sydney. Murdoch, at the behest of his executives, forced Lachlan from his heir-apparent post almost 10 years ago. Murdoch has felt guilty ever since. He's determined, with the new company, to right the wrong.

Meanwhile, he and his daughter, Elisabeth, have been at odds because of her public distancing from the family. Aided by her husband, Matthew Freud, a London PR man whom Murdoch has never liked, Elisabeth — whose company, Shine, is one of the largest independent television producers — has positioned herself as the anti-Murdoch Murdoch.

But Murdoch is said to have been full of admiration when, last week, Elisabeth hosted a birthday party for her husband — and the entire British establishment showed up. All those who had been tooting the end of Murdoch power in Britain, even celebrating the trial in London, were suddenly back in the Murdoch fold — including David Cameron, the prime minister, and his wife, Samantha, center stage on the dance floor.

Oh, and in an errant message meant as an instruction to the New York Post instead of as a request to the general public, Murdoch tweeted, " 'Please expose Eric Schmidt, Google' etc. Just wait!"