Wal-Mart hearts Marriott…

April 23, 2008

Each year, when Wal-Mart (WMT) files its proxy, there’s usually an interesting list of related party transactions and this year’s filing didn’t disappoint. Obviously, Wal-Mart touches a lot of different sectors of the economy and given Wal-Mart’s size it’s hard to argue that any of these deals are like the self-dealing at Krispy Kreme (KKD) all those years ago. But it still makes for more interesting reading beyond the various stories about H. Lee Scott’s salary.

One of the more interesting tidbits, now that Marriott (MAR) CFO Arne Sorenson is being nominated for a board seat, is that the giant retailer spent $5.5 million at Marriott properties last year. With the average hotel room running around $110 a night (nationwide), that’s roughly 50,000 nights spent at various Marriott properties. Of course, it’s probably less than that since things like the $9.95 charge for Internet access are factored in to that $5.5 million — something that irritates me to no end whenever I travel since I’d rather have the Internet in my room than a TV. But that’s still a lot of nights on the road, even for a company that has 2.1 million employees. Oddly enough, hotelier Ian Schrager once compared Marriott to Wal-Mart.

The other new related-party disclosure was on Wal-Marts use of Mercer, a subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan (MMC) because M. Michele Burns sits on Wal-Marts board. As the proxy notes, Mercer was hired to review executive compensation for Wal-Mart’s NEOs and was paid $1.73 million, though Burns did not participate.

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