The head of Walmart’s US business has been poached to take charge of Air New Zealand, leaving a vacancy at the top of one of the retailer’s biggest divisions as it prepares for the Christmas shopping season.
Greg Foran is returning to his homeland to become chief executive of the national flag carrier, whose former head Christopher Luxon announced this week he was planning to run for the New Zealand parliament.
His unexpected move, announced on Thursday, prompted Walmart to replace Mr Foran with John Furner, who runs its Sam’s Club subsidiary.
Walmart said it would announce at a later date Mr Furner’s successor at Sam’s Club, the membership-only warehouse business that generated annual revenues of $59bn last year.
Before Walmart, Mr Foran worked for retailer Woolworths in Australia and New Zealand. He joined the US group in 2011 and ran its China operation before taking charge of its American business five years ago.
Mr Foran is credited with transforming the business, which has 4,600 stores and more than 1m employees. Initiatives under his watch included investments in technology as Walmart battles with Amazon for retail supremacy.
Dame Therese Walsh, the airline’s chairman, said she was “thrilled to have attracted a world class Kiwi back home”.
Mr Foran, who is due to make the switch in the first quarter of next year, said he saw his new job as “nurturing and building on the legacy of an iconic company that represents the best of our nation at home and around the world really excites me”.
Mr Furner is also credited with improving results for Sam’s Club, although he has run the business only since 2017. Before that he was its chief merchandising officer. Mr Furner, 45, joined Walmart in 1993.
Doug McMillon, Walmart’s chief executive, said in a statement that Mr Foran had “made a huge difference for Walmart, and we are grateful”. He said he was confident that Mr Furner would “continue the momentum we have in Walmart US”.