Legendary Business Leader David Glass Dies At Age 84

BENTONVILLE, Ark. (AP) — David Dayne Glass, who served as President and CEO of Walmart Inc. from 1988 to 2000 when he led the company through extraordinary growth, died January 9, according to the Glass family.

He was 84.

He died of complications associated with pneumonia, according to the Glass family.

Most recently Glass was owner and Chief Executive Officer of the Kansas City Royals, a team he helped lead to two consecutive World Series appearances and in 2015 brought the World Championship trophy to the fans of Kansas City. Glass and his family sold the Royals late last year.

A native of Mountain View, MO, Glass served in the U.S. Army after graduating high school from 1954-56. After leaving the Army Glass earned a business degree from Southwest Missouri State University, now named Missouri State University, in Springfield, MO.

Upon graduation, Glass began his retail career in 1960 with Crank Drug Company in Springfield. He left Crank in 1968 after the company was sold and worked for two other companies, including serving as General Manager of Consumer Markets in Springfield. In 1976, Glass was recruited by Walmart founder Sam Walton to become Walmart's Chief Financial Officer.

Glass was named President and CEO of Walmart in 1988 and served in that role for 12 years. During his term in that role, Glass guided the company through a period of extraordinary growth both in terms of revenues and expansion including retail acquisitions, expansions including new retail formats and significant international expansion. Specifically, under Glass' leadership, Walmart:

  • Increased annual revenues from $16 billion in the fiscal year ending January 31, 1988, to approximately $165 billion in revenues in the fiscal year ending January 31, 2000.
  • Launched Walmart Supercenters and expanded Sam's Club.
  • Expanded international operations in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Mexico, Puerto Rico and United Kingdom.

Glass led a team of managers who adopted new and innovative technologies to streamline operations and improve customer service. This included the development of automated distribution centers, linked by computers to Walmart headquarters, stores and suppliers, which enabled the company to expand beyond a regional retailer to become an international retail leader.

Glass was also a mentor and leader to many who are now leading successful business careers and lives of their own.

Rob Walton, former Walmart Chairman and eldest son of Sam Walton, said the following:

"When we lost my Dad, David provided a steady, visionary hand the company needed to lead it forward. He did so with a deep sense of humility while maintaining the values and principles Dad founded the company on. More than anyone beyond Sam Walton, David Glass is responsible for making Walmart the company it is today. On behalf of the entire Walton family, I want to express our appreciation for David as a leader and as a friend. He will be deeply missed."

Glass was honored with numerous retail and business awards over the years, including being named "most admired CEO" in 1993 by Fortune Magazine, and inducted into the Retail Hall of Fame in 2000 and into the Arkansas Business Hall of Fame.

A lifelong baseball fan starting as a child when he followed the St. Louis Cardinals, Glass was appointed interim Chairman and CEO of the Kansas City Royals in 1993 upon the death of then owner Ewing Kauffman. Glass and his family acquired the Royals in 2000 and it was at that time that he began his second career, a career in baseball, at age 64.

During his ownership of the Royals, Glass was an active member in Major League Baseball and served on key committees within the Major League organization. Glass was the Chairman of the Board of MLB Advanced Media, a member of Major League Baseball's Executive Council and a member of MLB Enterprise and Finance Committee.

Glass was elected to the Board of Directors of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in July 2000, where he served as a member of the Pension and Audit Committees.

Dayton Moore, Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations and General Manager for the Royals, said the following:

"Mr. Glass loved this game, this team and our city with all his heart. He cared deeply for our fans and for the future of baseball. But above all, Mr. Glass placed an emphasis on putting family first which is what he stressed to our entire organization. We are forever grateful for his humble and supportive leadership, and we are beyond blessed that we were a part of his incredible life. Our thoughts and prayers are with his very special family."

However, while the list of business and sports achievements and honors are impressive indeed, those who knew Glass best knew that his number one priority throughout his entire life was his love and commitment to his family. Glass and his wife, Ruth, have three children, six grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.

Glass and his family have been supportive of numerous charitable causes and organizations over the years including Missouri State University. In fact the Missouri State College of Business is named David D. Glass Hall in honor of his dedication to the university.

The Glass family will hold a public "Celebration of Life" in his honor on Monday, January 27, 2020, at 1 p.m. the Northwest Arkansas Fellowship Bible Church, 1051 W. Pleasant Grove Road in Rogers AR.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted out the following statement:

Current Chief Executive Officer of Walmart Doug McMillon released the following statement:

It is with great sorrow and eternal gratitude we share the news that David Glass has passed away. For those of you who knew him, you know what an extraordinary leader and person he was. David joined our company in 1976 and served as our CEO from 1988 to 2000. He was a great partner to Sam and Rob Walton and led the company as CEO through the important period after we lost Sam.

Those of us who watched him closely frequently tell each other that he is the most under-appreciated CEO in the history of business. The results of the company and the choices he made set the company up for a long run into the future. He would often say, “we are just getting started.” The reason some under-appreciate his impact was his humility.

Despite all his success, he managed to give all the credit away. 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. In an April 29, 1996 article from Fortune magazine, the reporter said Walmart’s “core business appears mature; its chain of Sam’s Club stores is flagging; and its future, says the CEO, lies in food retailing, a brutally competitive arena. Maybe David Glass is brilliant. What almost killed Sears and Kmart, after all, was their managements’ resistance to change.” While the article seems to bet against us, the reporter sure did get one thing right: David was brilliant.

Rob Walton reached out with some thoughts about David that I wanted to share with you:

“I am deeply saddened to learn the news of David Glass passing. For many years, my dad worked hard to recruit David before he joined us in 1976. Little did we know then the monumental impact he would have on us and the retail industry. David’s knowledge of the grocery industry, his financial acumen, and his embrace of technology were invaluable as we rapidly grew the business. When we lost Sam, David provided a steady, visionary hand the company needed to lead it forward. He did so with a deep sense of humility while maintaining the values and principles Dad founded the company on. More than anyone beyond Sam Walton, David Glass is responsible for making Walmart the company it is today. On behalf of the Walton family, I want to express our appreciation for David as a leader and as a friend. He will be deeply missed.”

After Walmart, David became the owner of the Kansas City Royals and it gave him great joy to watch the team win the 2015 World Series. As he reflected on that experience, the story that seemed to give him the most joy was related to the victory parade and how the city celebrated. He was always prioritizing other people. He loved his family, he loved Walmart and he loved the Royals.

After his retirement from the company and our board, he continued to make himself available to Walmart leadership. 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. 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. He was always there for us. The words that persist for me when it comes to David Glass are wisdom and love. If he could leave you with one message, I suspect it would be to remember, “We’re just getting started!”."

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