Doug McMillon
Doug McMillon

The new chief executive officer of Wal-Mart, Doug McMillon, started working at what is now the world’s largest retailer in 1984 as an 18-year-old in a distribution center.

McMillon, 47, succeeds Mike Duke, 63, as president and CEO of the Bentonville, Ark.-based multi-national company, effective Feb. 1, 2014. McMillon was immediately elected to the Wal-Mart board of directors, according to a company news release.

Duke will continue as chairman of the executive committee of the board and, in the tradition of his predecessors, he will stay on as an advisor to McMillon for one year, according to the news release.

Since 2009 McMillon has been president and CEO of Wal-Mart International, which has more than 6,300 stores with more than 820,000 employees in 26 countries outside the U.S. Before that, from 2006-09, McMillon was president and CEO of Sam’s Club, another segment of the company.

The announcement of the change at the top came less than two weeks after the retailer’s most recent quarterly report. In that Nov. 14 report, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. posted its third straight quarter of declines in comparable sales in the U.S., blaming a drop in shopper visits and predicting lackluster profit for the upcoming holiday season.

“This leadership change comes at a time of strength and growth at Wal-Mart,” Rob Walton, chairman of Wal-Mart’s board of directors, said in the release. “The company has the right strategy to serve the changing customer around the world, and Doug has been actively involved in this process.

Originally from Jonesboro, Ark., McMillon graduated from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, with a bachelor of science in business administration. He earned a master’s in business administration in finance at the University of Tulsa.