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Walmart mourns longtime CEO

David Glass, retired Walmart chief executive officer, died Jan. 9. Glass joined the company in 1976 and served as CEO from 1988 to 2000. He led the company into the food business, expanded beyond U.S. borders, helped teach the company how to partner with suppliers and innovate through technology.mc

"Those of us who watched him closely frequently tell each other that he is the most under-appreciated CEO in the history of business," said Doug McMillon, president and CEO of Walmart Inc. "The results of the company and the choices he made set the company up for a long run into the future. He would often say, 'we are just getting started.' The reason some under-appreciate his impact was his humility."

Despite all his success, he managed to give all the credit away. "He would credit our associates and rightfully so. But, without his wisdom and good judgment, his intuition that led us to blaze new trails, his iron will and the love he had for all of us, Walmart would not be the company we are today," said McMillon.

In an April 29, 1996 article from Fortune magazine, the reporter said Walmart’s “core business appears mature; its chain of Sam’s Club stores is flagging; and its future, says the CEO, lies in food retailing, a brutally competitive arena. Maybe David Glass is brilliant. What almost killed Sears and Kmart, after all, was their managements’ resistance to change.”

“I am deeply saddened to learn the news of David Glass passing," said Rob Walton, who served as chairman of Walmart from 1992 to 2015. "For many years, my dad worked hard to recruit David before he joined us in 1976. Little did we know then the monumental impact he would have on us and the retail industry. David’s knowledge of the grocery industry, his financial acumen, and his embrace of technology were invaluable as we rapidly grew the business. When we lost Sam, David provided a steady, visionary hand the company needed to lead it forward. He did so with a deep sense of humility while maintaining the values and principles dad founded the company on. More than anyone beyond Sam Walton, David Glass is responsible for making Walmart the company it is today. On behalf of the Walton family, I want to express our appreciation for David as a leader and as a friend. He will be deeply missed.”

After Walmart, Glass became the owner of the Kansas City Royals and it gave him great joy to watch the team win the 2015 World Series. As he reflected on that experience, the story that seemed to give him the most joy was related to the victory parade and how the city celebrated. He was always prioritizing other people. He loved his family, he loved Walmart and he loved the Royals.

After his retirement from Walmart and its board, he continued to make himself available to Walmart leadership. "He had a way of giving great advice and helping us correct mistakes or avoid problems but always in a warm, caring and intelligent way," said McMillon. "He came over to the home office just a few weeks ago so we could capture his thoughts about Everyday Low Price and the Walmart business model. He was always there for us. The words that persist for me when it comes to David Glass are wisdom and love. If he could leave you with one message, I suspect it would be to remember, 'We’re just getting started.'"