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Puzzling Out the Value of Wal-Mart on a Resume: Supervalu and Starbucks a Bust, Microsoft Next?

The most surprising thing about the mess at Supervalu (SVU), which switched out CEOs this week, is the credentials of the departing Craig Herkert. Herkert, who was brought in just three years ago, was previously president and CEO of the Americas for Wal-Mart (WMT). With training at the world's biggest retailer, also big in the grocery business, how could things go so wrong?

Unfortunately, they did.

SVU Chart

SVU data by YCharts

Consider another Wal-Mart veteran, Jim McDonald, who joined Starbucks (SBUX) in 2002 and took the top job in 2005. In 1991 Sam Walton himself asked Donald to join him to run a small, almost experimental grocery division. In three years there, he added grocery to 140 stores.

Donald was similarly aggressive at Starbucks, where he rolled out an average six stores a day until Schultz kicked him out in 2008. Donald’s tenure in chart form:

SBUX Chart

SBUX data by YCharts

This could mean Wal-Mart is a lousy training ground for retailers, that what works in Bentonville stays in Bentonville. Or it could mean that Herkert and Donald didn't spend enough time there learning the ropes before they blew town. Herkert held that job at Wal-Mart for only five years. Donald left for Safeway (SWY) after three.

If that's the case, perhaps there's hope for B. Kevin Turner, chief operating officer of Microsoft (MSFT) since 2005. Before moving to Redmond, he spent almost 20 years at Wal-Mart, starting as a cashier while in college and eventually president and CEO of Sam’s Club. According to Microsoft’s website, in 2009 he “led and spearheaded Microsoft’s entry into the Retail Stores business.”

How’s that rollout going? It seems to have 21 stores -- not exactly making Apple (AAPL) quake.

Ah, maybe it’s only the lifers who learn the retail giant's genius.

From the editors of YCharts.YCharts Pro Investor Service includes professional stock charts, stock ratings and portfolio strategies.

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