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Hollywood, Wall St. to Honor Wal-Mart CEO

October 18, 2006|Abigail Goldman | Times Staff Writer

Not very long ago, the nation's largest retailer stoked its homespun image by avoiding big-city glitz and keeping its corporate events close to home in Bentonville, Ark.

Times have changed.

Not only is Wal-Mart Stores Inc. elbowing its way into major metropolitan areas, featuring celebrities in its ads and holding an analysts' conference in New York, but now its chief executive is being celebrated by some of the biggest names from Hollywood and Wall Street.

On Monday, Wal-Mart's H. Lee Scott Jr. is being honored at a gala organized by movie producers, attended by media giants and entertained by legendary rock band the Eagles .

"I've never heard of another meeting like this," said Wal-Mart analyst Mark Husson at HSBC Securities in New York. "Lee Scott in the midst of the liberal establishment? It's a very rare thing."

Guests will dine on organic and "fair trade" food such as New York grass-fed beef at the Rainbow Room atop Rockefeller Center -- about 1,100 miles northeast of Wal-Mart headquarters.

The event is not billed as celebrating Wal-Mart's role as the nation's top seller of CDs and DVDs. Instead, some of Hollywood's environmental activists are honoring Scott for "his commitment to environmental sustainability."

Scott last year pledged to use Wal-Mart's power to slash solid waste, reduce fuel emissions and cut power usage.

The event is being put on by movie producers Bob and Harvey Weinstein; among the co-hosts are talk show star Charlie Rose, NBC Universal Chief Executive Bob Wright, MTV creator Robert Pittman and investment banker Steven Rattner.

"We've talked with a lot of people about what we can do in this area and found that the desire to make a difference cuts across party lines and social circles," Wal-Mart spokeswoman Mona Williams said.

She said Scott, who met the Weinsteins through their companies' business dealings, appreciated their shared interest in the environment.

"It may actually be what it appears to be," analyst Husson said.

"It's strange bedfellows, but it may actually be that they all have this cause bringing them together."

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abigail.goldman@latimes.com

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