BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Tom Coughlin, a former Walmart vice chairman and protégé of company founder Sam Walton, died this month at age 66.
Coughlin had been in the intensive care unit of a hospital for several days, Thomson Reuters reported. The cause of death could not be confirmed immediately.
“Our hearts go out to the family of Tom Coughlin,” Walmart president and chief executive officer Doug McMillon said in a note to senior executives. “Like me, many of you worked with Tom over his more than 26 years with the company. I know firsthand how much he loved our associates and this company.”
Coughlin stepped down as vice chairman in early 2005. Joining the company in the security division in 1978, he rose through the ranks to hold a number of senior posts, including head of the U.S. retail division. He was named vice chairman and elected to the Walmart board of directors in April 2003.
His responsibilities at the time of his resignation included Walmart stores, Sam’s Club and Walmart.com businesses in the U.S., as well as logistics, real estate, store planning, global procurement, compliance and the company’s diversity office.
He resigned his seat on the board later in 2005 following a company investigation relating to personal reimbursements, payment of third-party invoices and use of company gift cards. Known for visiting stores and speaking with store-level employees, he subsequently maintained a consultancy and was sometimes sought by Walmart executives for advice.
“Tom Coughlin has achieved one of the most successful business careers that anyone could imagine, and he is a great example of what a person can accomplish in the retail field,” Lee Scott, then Walmart’s president and CEO, said in late 2004. “I have seen firsthand the significant difference that Tom has made at Walmart.”
“Tom has worked in so many different areas of retail that he understands the business, and has developed a talent for breaking challenging retail issues into simple solutions,” Scott added. “I learned from Tom during our years together and am grateful to him for that.”
Rob Walton, then chairman of the company, said at the time, “I know that my father, Sam Walton, would be proud of Tom’s career at Walmart and the role he has played in the growth and development of the company. Tom is a talented leader, and I particularly respect the special relationship that he has built with our associates in the field. This says a lot about how well Tom Coughlin represents the Walmart culture.”