NEW YORK (TheStreet) - Walmart's (WMT) announcement Thursday that Bill Simon, CEO of Walmart U.S., is leaving the company and the world's largest retailer garnered mixed reactions by the analyst community.
Wall Street was generally unsurprised that Simon is leaving -- chatter that his departure may have been over disappointment at being passed up for promotion as Walmart's CEO earlier this year with the company instead choosing its international head, Doug McMillon. However, analysts seemed curious about Walmart's decision to pass over those underneath Simon to replace him, instead naming an executive who had been heading up its China and greater Asia operations.
Greg Foran, 53, Walmart's head of its operations in Asia, is replacing Simon, and his experience is "primarily outside the U.S.," Deutsche Bank analyst Paul Trussell wrote in a research note. "In our view, this presents a substantial learning curve and showcases a clear change in direction of the division, for him to successfully bypass all of Bill's lieutenants such as Chief Merchandising Officer, Duncan Mac Naughton."
Foran will start his new position on August 9. Simon will be available as a consultant for six months to assist with the transition. "Foran is not well known by Wall Street," wrote Faye Landes, an analyst with Cowen & Co., in a note to clients. "Foran joined the company recently - October 2011 - and has been working in Asia. He was appointed as head of Asia at the end of April 2014, implying that this most recent move was not in the works at that point. We will probably never know the backstory on this - it seems likely that the company knew or at least strongly suspected that Simon would leave, but maybe they originally had someone else in mind as head of U.S." In a press release earlier Thursday, Walmart cited Foran's experience citing him as a "35-year retail veteran."
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