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CEO Aims to Repair Wal-Mart Name

September 09, 2004|From Reuters

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. can no longer remain sheltered in its Bentonville, Ark., headquarters while potentially costly lawsuits pile up, Chief Executive Lee Scott said Wednesday.

Scott said at an analyst conference in New York that Wal-Mart management had failed in its efforts to repair the retailer's reputation, which has been tarnished by dozens of discrimination cases and charges of worker mistreatment in recent years.

Many Wall Street analysts consider the lawsuits and bad publicity to be among the biggest obstacles to Wal-Mart's expansion and even profit growth.

The world's biggest retailer faces increasing opposition as it stretches beyond its rural roots and into urban areas. Voters in Inglewood rejected a Wal-Mart Supercenter, and other communities have passed laws blocking so-called big-box stores.

"We have got to eliminate this constant barrage of negatives that cause people ... to wonder if Wal-Mart will be allowed to grow," Scott said.

"Our message has not gotten out to the extent that it should," he said. "We thought we could sit in Bentonville, take care of customers, take care of associates, and the world would leave us alone."

He said the company needed to be "more sophisticated" than it was in the days of charismatic founder Sam Walton, who shunned public speaking.

Wal-Mart shares fell 21 cents Wednesday to $53.08 on the New York Stock Exchange.

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