By  on October 3, 2005

BOSTON — Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is flipping the roles of two of its top domestic and international executives as the world's largest retailer seeks to grow sales.

John B. Menzer, chief executive officer of Wal-Mart International, will run the much larger Wal-Mart U.S. business, which has 3,124 stores and $191.8 billion fiscal 2005 revenue. He also will oversee real estate, logistics, information services, benefits, global procurement, financial services, store planning and strategic planning.

Michael T. Duke will be in charge of 1.587 international stores that generated $56.3 billion, the company's fastest-growing sector and its main opportunity for significant expansion.

Menzer and Duke both will be vice chairmen.

Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, Ark., in August reported its smallest quarterly profit increase in four years as higher oil prices chilled consumer spending.

The company also named Jim Walton to the board, replacing his brother, John, who died in a plane crash this year.

Wal-Mart president and ceo H. Lee Scott said Menzer will "continue to accelerate changes in the largest segment of our business. During the last six years, he transformed Wal-Mart International into a well-organized, fast-growing and profitable business."

Scott said Duke "has the ability and the management confidence to delegate responsibility to the best people in his organization, and develop and promote them." The new job "will give us the opportunity to apply those skills to our overseas operations."

Kurt Barnard, president of Barnard's Consulting Group, said that, in trying executives in new roles, Scott is taking a page from the playbook of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton.

"Lee Scott may be in the process of testing possible successors," Barnard said.

Walton's successor, ceo David Glass, switched Scott from logistics into merchandising at a key juncture in Scott's career.

Menzer was Wal-Mart's chief financial officer before running its international business.

Duke, who joined Wal-Mart in 2003 after a 23-year career with Federated and May Department Stores, has had ups and downs leading the U.S. division. Stale merchandise and problematic pricing led to disappointing Christmas sales last year. This year, the division is facing stiff headwinds from record gas prices, an anti-Wal-Mart campaign organized by unions and hurricanes that have shuttered stores in swaths of its core Southeastern U.S. territory.

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