Taking the Company Public

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Taking the Company Public

Stock Offering

By 1970, Sam and Bud had opened 38 stores and were doing more than $44 million in annual sales. But to keep expanding the business, they had to borrow more money. “That practice,” Sam said, “had gotten me into debt to practically every bank in Arkansas and southern Missouri.” Sam and Bud realized that only a public stock offering would let them get out of debt and continue building the company. In October 1970, Sam took Walmart public with an offer of 300,000 shares that traded over the counter. Less than two years later, the stock had quadrupled in value and had begun trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Certificate for 100 shares of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. stock, issued to Sam Walton.

Original ticker tape from August 25, 1972, the day Wal-Mart stock was listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

Two years after going public, Walmart was added to the New York Stock Exchange.


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We wanted to expand, and we realized we weren’t generating enough profits both to expand and to pay off our debts … [Bud and I] agreed to seriously explore the possibilities of going public. It was a huge step for us.
Sam Walton

Top Performer

To call Walmart’s stock performance phenomenal would be an understatement. The first offering, on October 1, 1970, was $16.50 per share. Since then, Walmart stock has split two-for-one 11 times. That means a person who bought 100 shares for $1,650 in 1970 would, 40 years later, have 204,800 shares, worth about $17 million. Quarterly dividends have been paid continuously since 1973.

 
 
 
 
   

The price of Wal-Mart stock was posted each day at the Home Office.

The official Securities and Exchange Commission registration for Walmart. The company officially went public at 10:15 A.M., EST.

The official Securities and Exchange Commission registration for Walmart. The company officially went public at 10:15 A.M., EST.

Page from a stock record book with stock certificate and stub indicating date, number of shares, and store.

Letter from Sam Walton regarding the company’s profit-sharing plan, 1970.

Associate Jim Rountree’s copy of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. Profit Sharing Plan, March 25, 1977.

Report on profit-sharing benefits issued to Shirley M. Pond, one of the many Wal-Mart associates to take part in the plan.

An article in Walmart World explaining how the profit sharing plan worked.

The cover of Walmart World from April 1985 focused on profit sharing.

Report on profit-sharing benefits issued to Shirley M. Pond, one of the many Wal-Mart associates to take part in the plan.

Sharing the Profits

In 1971, Walmart introduced an associate profit-sharing plan. “The idea for sharing profits and benefits,” Sam recalled, “had come up even before we went public, not from me, but from Helen.” Like the value of the company, the value of the profit-sharing plan grew at an astounding pace. Many associates saw their portfolios turn into small fortunes as the plan fueled the exponential growth that the young company experienced.

Those who bought in that offering, or who owned some of those early partnerships and had them converted in that offering, made an absolute killing.
Sam Walton
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Cover of the 1971 Annual Report for shareholders’ meeting. 1971 was the second shareholders’ meeting.

Table of contents and basic financial information for the 1971 annual report. The 4-year summary showed Walmart had grown to over $44 million in annual net sales.

Pictures of store openings from the 1971 Annual Report. On the left side of the page, we see Walmart’s directors and officers.

A message from Sam to the shareholders.

Income statements and balance sheets. Walmart’s assets nearly doubled from 1970 to 1971.