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Castro-Wright resignation noteworthy, but not a surprise

Normally, it is a big deal when the vice chairman of a major company announces their retirement. Especially when said executive is only 56 and in the prime of their senior leadership years. That wasn’t the case earlier this week when Walmart announced that Eduardo Castro-Wright would be stepping down as vice chairman and CEO of the company’s global e-commerce and global sourcing businesses.

In a brief press release, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. president and CEO Mike Duke offered that, “Eduardo has made many contributions at Walmart, beginning in Mexico and continuing until today. He has been a strong advocate for our customers and in every assignment has brought passion and commitment to the job. He has also built talented teams wherever he has led.”

The interesting thing about Duke’s brief statement is that there is no mention of the word results. During the decade he spent at Walmart, Castro-Wright experienced a meteoric rise through the ranks of senior management. A former consumer packaged goods executive, he joined Walmart in 2001 as president and COO of Walmart Mexico. Less than two years later he was named CEO of that business and Mexico was one of Walmart’s strongest markets during his leadership tenure. Unfortunately for Walmart, Castro-Wright was unable to replicate that success in the U.S., when in 2005 he became COO of Walmart’s U.S. stores division just as the division was undergoing a major senior leadership transition following the ouster of former stores division top executive Tom Coughlin. It wasn’t long before Castro-Wright was named president and CEO of the division and set out to lead a dramatic and multifaceted three year transformation initiative that would become known as Project Impact.

He, along with a leadership triumvirate that included COO Bill Simon, chief merchandising officer John Fleming and chief marketing officer Stephen Quinn implemented a strategy which include key elements revealed as ineffective. The pursuit of Project Impact did not produce desired financial results and last year top merchant Fleming left the company while Castro Wright saw his responsibilities greatly reduced as he was give oversight of the company’s newly restructure global.com operation based in California.

Former COO Bill Simon was elevated to the role of Walmart U.S. president and CEO and Flemings old head merchant job was filled by Duncan Mac Naughton. The duo set about undoing key elements of Project Impact by restoring product assortments, returning feature displays to Action Alley and restoring discipline to the company’s commitment to everyday low prices.