David Glass, who was president and chief executive officer of Walmart Inc. from 1988 to 2000 and led the retailer through a period of intense growth, died earlier this month from complications associated with pneumonia, his family said. He was 84 years old.
Most recently, Glass was owner and ceo of the Kansas City Royals, which he helped lead to two consecutive World Series. Glass and his family sold the Royals late last year, but not before bringing the World Championship trophy to Kansas City fans in 2015.
Glass’ retail career started in 1960 at Crank Drug Company in Springfield, Mo. He worked for two other companies, including as general manager of Consumer Markets, also in Springfield, before joining in 1976 Walmart as chief financial officer after being recruited by the retailer’s founder, Sam Walton.
Named president and ceo of Walmart in 1988, Glass led the company through a period of growth in terms of revenue, expansion, acquisitions and the launch of new retail formats. The retailer’s store count exploded from 123 in 1976 to more than 4,000 in 2005.
During his 12-year tenure, annual revenue at the Bentonville, Ark.-based behemoth rose from $16 billion in the 1988 fiscal year, to $165 billion in 2000. Walmart Supercenters were introduced and Sam’s Club expanded under Glass’ watch, and Walmart started international operations in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the U.K.
Walmart ceo Doug McMillon called Glass the most underappreciated ceo in the history of business.
“Despite all his success, he managed to give all the credit away,” McMillon said. “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. He led us into the food business, expanded beyond U.S. borders, helped teach us how to partner with suppliers and innovate through technology.”
Walmart chairman of the board Rob Walton said his father, Sam, worked hard to recruit Glass for many years before he agreed to join the retailer. “Little did we know then the monumental impact he would have on us and the retail industry,” Walton said. “David’s knowledge of the grocery industry, his financial acumen, and his embrace of technology were invaluable as we rapidly grew the business. More than anyone beyond Sam Walton, David Glass is responsible for making Walmart the company it is today.”
McMillon said that Glass, who served on Walmart’s board, continued to make himself available to the company’s leadership after he retired from his seat. “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,” McMillon said. “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.”