Mike Duke, who retired as chief executive officer of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., in January 2014, has joined The Carlyle Group as an operating executive in its Global Consumer & Retail Group.
This story first appeared in the April 16, 2015 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
In his new role, Duke will advise portfolio company executives on management, operational, branding and growth strategies. He will also provide strategic guidance to Carlyle professionals when needed. The position is not full-time and Duke will be able to devote time to various roles outside of Carlyle.
Following his retirement as ceo, Duke has been working for the past year, until Jan. 31, with his successor C. Douglas McMillon as part of the transition period. He said he became interested in Carlyle when he got to know the firm’s founder, David M. Rubenstein, while the two worked together on the advisory board of the Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management in Beijing.
“I saw how David leads, and it made me pay more attention to Carlyle. I got to observe how they operate with integrity and how they have great business discipline,” Duke said.
Sandra Horbach, Carlyle’s managing director who heads up the Global Consumer & Retail Group, said Duke is a “terrific strategist,” and his experience heading up the world’s largest retailer gives him an extensive view of the consumer and retail space. “He’ll work with us in a number of ways.…He can help us think about where we should be in the consumer space in reviewing investment opportunities and working with our portfolio companies,” she said.
While Duke, along with former Procter & Gamble executive Susan E. Arnold, will be working primarily within the Global Consumer & Retail Group here and overseas, Carlyle operating executives frequently work collaboratively with other teams across different industry verticals.
“We brought him on board because of his judgment and experience. He has a very broad-based executive background. That’s what we look for when we add executives [to our team] and it’s hard to find that in any single person,” Horbach said.
As for where he thinks the consumer is today, Duke said, “There are still some consumer groups going through pressure, but overall I see optimism and a positive trend.” Regarding growth of retail businesses in general and growth in consumer spending, Duke said that the last few years may have seen “slower growth than what we’ve wanted, but sometimes even a little bit of growth is better than no growth.”
Duke joined Wal-Mart in 1995, and has led the logistics, distribution and administration divisions, as well as Wal-Mart U.S. From 2005 to 2009 he was vice chairman for Wal-Mart International, and became president and ceo in 2009. He remains on Wal-Mart’s board and chairs the executive committee. Prior to joining Wal-Mart, he had 23 years of experience in retailing with Federated Department Stores and May Department Stores.
The Global Consumer & Retail Group is part of the private equity group within Carlyle. Since inception, Carlyle has invested about $12 billion in equity in 70 transactions in the consumer and retail space, including Dunkin’ Brands, beauty brand Philosophy, Beats Electronics, and hair care firm Vogue International.