(BENTONVILLE, Ark.) -- Walmart, the world's largest private employer, is getting a new leader. While CEOs like Tim Cook at Apple are household names, few Americans are likely to know anything about Doug McMillon, who will be just the company's fifth CEO in Walmart's 51-year history. With Wal-Mart's announcement during the company's busiest shopping week of the year McMillon, 47, has been thrust into the spotlight.
He'll take over Feb. 1 from his current post as president and CEO of Walmart International, overseeing more than 6,300 stores and 823,000 workers in 26 countries outside the U.S.
McMillon began his career at Walmart as a summer associate in a Walmart Distribution Center in 1984, loading and unloading trucks. As a 22-year veteran of the company, McMillon has lived in Bentonville, Ark., as Walmart International CEO. Before then, he was president and CEO of Sam's Club from 2006 to 2009.
His promotion comes at a key time for the retailer, which is battling to increase sales as well as fending off its critics, who complain about low pay and not enough opportunities to advance for too many of Walmart's 2 million employees.
"Our management team is talented and experienced, and our strategy gives me confidence that our future is bright," McMillon said in a statement. "By keeping our promise to customers, we will drive shareholder value, create opportunity for our associates and grow our business."
Wal-Mart Stores CEO Mike Duke, 63, will remain as chairman and advise McMillon for a year.
Duke, who will have had the shortest term of Walmart's CEOs at four years, will turn 64 on Dec. 7.
One Walmart employee who is a member of Our Walmart, a labor group that receives funding from United Food and Commercial Workers International Union that is pushing Walmart to unionize its employees, said the leadership change is "a testament to the pressure the company is feeling" while "heading in the wrong direction."
Tiffany Beroid, from the Laurel, Md., store, has worked at Walmart for about two years. She says she is one of as many as 825,000 Walmart workers who earn less than $25,000 a year.
"We're happy to see Mr. McMillon acknowledge the hard work of associates in his statement this morning, and we hope that this appreciation translates into improving jobs for Walmart workers. Americans nationwide are looking to Walmart to improve jobs and strengthen our economy, and Mr. McMillon has an opportunity to be a leader in moving Walmart in the right direction, not just in offering more empty promises," Beroid said. "We sincerely hope that Mr. McMillon will answer the country's calls for Walmart to publicly commit to paying $25,000 a year, providing full-time work and ending its illegal retaliation against its own employees."
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