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Walmart to Separate Business and Pleasure at Annual Meeting

Proxy and board votes to occur separately from associate celebration

Walmart will dial down the glitz at its annual meeting of shareholders this year by having separate events to conduct shareholder business and celebrate employees.

Through last year, the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer held both events simultaneously, making it perhaps the liveliest shareholders meeting in U.S. business. Voting for proxy proposals and confirmations of board nominees and accounting firms were sandwiched between live concert performances and celebrity appearances, held in a basketball arena before thousands of cheering Walmart associates from around the world.

This year, Walmart will conduct business at a formal shareholders meeting on Wednesday, June 30, followed by its traditional associate celebration and business update on Friday, June 1.

Walmart said the change in format continues an evolution that began when Sam Walton held his first shareholders’ meeting in 1970 and presided over five other people at a coffee shop table. Associates took on an increasingly important role at the shareholders meetings in the 1980s; during that time, the events became more and more celebratory and included special guests. The venue for the meeting grew from the Walmart Home Office Auditorium to Barnhill Arena at the University of Arkansas and then to its current location at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville, Ark., in 1994, shortly after it was built.

The June 1 event will be held as usual at the Bud Walton Area and will include presentations from Walmart’s executive team, and entertainment to highlight accomplishments from the prior year.

Walmart typically engages a celebrity host for that event, which includes multiple musical performances. In recent years, the company has hosted James Corden, Harry Connick Jr., Hugh Jackman, Reese Witherspoon, Mariah Carey, Pharrell Williams, Tom Cruise and Rod Stewart, to name a few. Walmart officials say they work with studios and labels to book guests, and pay only for expenses associated with travel to the event.

Walmart will continue to host a Q&A session with the investment community following the associate celebration, led by CEO Doug McMillon.

Separately last week, Walmart released its annual 10-K report with the Securities & Exchange Commission, confirming earlier guidance for plans to spend approximately $11 billion on capital projects for the fiscal year ending Jan. 31, 2019.

In the U.S., Walmart said it would continue to prioritize store remodels and digital experiences, with approximately 1,000 additional online grocery locations and investing in other fulfillment capabilities. The company anticipates opening 280 stores this year, but just 25 of those in the U.S.

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