David Glass, who succeeded founder Sam Walton as chief executive officer at Walmart and used the fortune he earned to buy Major League Baseball’s Kansas City Royals, has died. He was 84.
Glass died on Jan. 9 of complications from pneumonia, according to a statement from his investment firm, which cited the Glass family.
As CEO for a dozen years ending in 2000, Glass led Walmart to become the world’s largest retailer. He pushed the Bentonville, Arkansas-based discount chain far beyond its rural roots by building stores and supercenters, mammoth sites stocked with groceries and general merchandise, across the U.S. Under Glass, Walmart became a megamerchant, spending billions on acquisitions in Canada, Germany and the U.K. It opened stores in Mexico and China, while also moving online. And he expanded the Sam’s Club division of warehouse-size bulk-purchase outlets.
The number of employees, known as “associates,” rose to 1.1 million from 183,000 as the number of stores tripled to about 4,000 during Glass’s tenure, according to Walmart’s annual reports. Revenue rose 10-fold during that period, to US$165 billion; net income soared to US$5.4 billion from US$628 million; and shares rose 19-fold, making Walmart the world’s seventh-most valuable company by time Glass stepped down, with a market capitalization of about US$245 billion.
Overshadowed by Walton, the company’s charismatic founder who died in 1992, Glass was “one of the great unsung achievers of American business,” according to a 2000 Fortune story.
His manner was low-key and unassuming. “There are no superstars at Walmart,” Glass said, according to to a 1992 Businessweek story. “We’re a company of ordinary people overachieving.”
Glass’s record wasn’t unblemished as the company’s push for rapid growth created its own problems. Responding to a critical report broadcast on the NBC News program “Dateline” in 1992, Walmart acknowledged that clothing labeled as Made in the USA in some stores was in fact imported from countries such as China and Bangladesh. This occurred while the company’s marketing campaign was “Buy American.” The retailer denied the program’s assertion -- captured by a hidden camera -- that some of its Asian suppliers used child labor, according to a New York Times story.
In addition, critics accused the company’s pricing power of destroying mom-and-pop retail shops, especially in small towns across the U.S.
After stepping down at age 64, Glass sold about 2 million of his more then 5 million Walmart shares to buy the Kansas City Royals for US$96 million in 2000. He had served as interim CEO and chairman since 1993. After winning baseball’s title in 1985, the team didn’t return to post-season play until 2014 when they lost the World Series to the San Francisco Giants. The club advanced to the fall classic the following year, beating the New York Mets to win the championship.
An estimated 800,000 fans attended a post-World Series victory parade to honor the team, whose home market then consisted of about 2.3 million people.
David Dayne Glass was born Sept. 2, 1935, on a farm in Oregon County, Missouri, to Marvin Glass and Myrtle Van Winkle. He grew up in nearby Mountain View in a house lacking indoor plumbing and electricity. His father ran a small feed store. His mother worked in a local apparel factory to help support David, who was then called Dayne, and his two brothers, according to “In Sam We Trust,” a 1998 book about Walmart by Bob Ortega.
After a stint in the U.S. Army, he attended Southwest Missouri State College, in Springfield, graduating in 1960 with a bachelor’s degree in accounting. The school is now called Missouri State University.
Later that year, Glass started his career in retailing with J.W. Crank, a small drugstore chain in Springfield, and then joined Consumers Markets, a grocery company where he rose to general manager.
During that time, Glass met Sam Walton, who hired him in 1976 as executive vice president for finance, and he helped implement a companywide computer network to track inventory and lower costs. He rose to chief financial officer and vice chairman in 1982 and two years later became president and chief operating officer. He served as chairman from 2000 to 2006.
While at Walmart, he became chairman and CEO of the Royals in 1993, shortly after the death of the team’s founding owner, Ewing Kauffman.
When he took over the team, Glass said he thought the return to its glory days of the could be accomplished “fairly rapidly.” In the decade and a half it took, he cut the payroll from US$41 million to US$19 million and penny pinched with measures such as denying scouts mobile phones to save on minutes.
Glass and his wife, Ruth, had three children: Don, Dan and Dayna, all of whom served on the team’s board with their mother. Dan is team president.