With His TikTok Pursuit, Walmart CEO Seeks to Revamp Retailer Again

For Walmart Chief Executive Doug McMillon, a bid for TikTok would align with many of his personal interests and wider goals for the company.

Photo: Rick T. Wilking/Getty Images

Doug McMillon has worked to remake Walmart Inc. WMT 2.69% since becoming its chief executive six years ago. He has all but stopped building new U.S. stores, spent roughly $20 billion on e-commerce startups and retreated from Brazil and other countries.

The 53-year-old’s latest gambit would be the farthest departure from the company’s traditional roots, trying to turn one of the world’s biggest social-media apps into a Walmart storefront.

Walmart said Thursday it was making a joint bid with Microsoft Corp. for TikTok’s U.S. operations, the popular video-sharing app that is facing a potential ban in the U.S. from the Trump administration over national-security concerns. TikTok is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance Ltd.

The retail giant wants to use TikTok to sell products to U.S. consumers spending hours swiping through goofy videos of dance routines, lip-syncing and pranks. But Walmart also wants to be a bigger player in digital advertising. It could use TikTok’s audience to sell ad space to other companies, mainly its own suppliers, according to people familiar with the operation.

Last year, the company announced plans to create a digital-advertising network that would compete for marketing dollars with Amazon.com Inc., Google and others. Walmart brought its digital-ad sales unit in house and hired ad executives to sell space on walmart.com.

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