Live from Fayetteville! It's Wal-Mart's annual shareholder meeting


Wal-Mart's annual shareholder meeting was a subdued event compared to past years, thanks to some pretty dismal sales at U.S. stores in the last two quarters and management's lack of a real plan to turn those trends around. Sure there were a lot of upbeat and flashy moments at the meeting in Fayetteville, Ark., where approximately 16,000 attendees gathered to celebrate the company, if not its financial performance.

The festivities kicked off before dawn at the Bud Walton Arena at the University of Arkansas where thousands of Wal-Mart associates who had traveled to the company's home state filled seats to the rafters. This is a tradition for Wal-Mart, and roughly half of its U.S. stores sends representatives to cheer the company on. Large contingents of employees from China, Japan and Mexico were among the international attendees. Board members, retirees, media and financial analysts filled the main floor of the arena, but shareholders and hard facts were in shorter supply.

How much is the shareholder meeting orchestrated? So much and for so long now, that they've nearly lost all pretense of this being a meeting about financial performance and goals. Executives, their families, Wal-Mart corporate employees and more than a few members of the financial press left the arena seating area and were gabbing loudly in the VIP rooms. What drove them back to their seats? Not one of the many shareholder propositions being read (and ignored), but the appearance on stage of American Idol winner Lee DeWyze.