2013 Wal-Mart Shareholder’s Meeting

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The Wal-Mart (WMT) show did not disappoint today. A crew of A-list celebrities showed up at the annual meeting of the world’s biggest retailer, wowing thousands of employees and investors in attendance, as well as the masses who tuned in to the live Webcast.

One would assume Wal-Mart handed each of the celebrities a small fortune. Oddly, it didn’t. None of the stars were paid to appear, according to a Wal-Mart spokeswoman. Nor, she says, did the company promise any special treatment for the performers’ music and/or movies sold in its 10,000 stores around the world.

Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Hudson, Kelly Clarkson, and John Legend belted out songs gratis. Tom Cruise hit the stage in a snazzy blue suit, praising the company’s charitable contributions.

Unless the stars just happened to be passing through Fayetteville, Ark., they probably had to travel quite a while to get there. And the meeting wasn’t all light banter and Broadway hits. There were les misérables, as well. Wal-Mart executives faced protests all week over low wages, alleged bribery of officials in Mexico, and the working conditions in garment factories in Bangladesh.

At its core, though, the annual meeting has become a publicity bonanza, not unlike celebrities making the rounds of late-night talk shows. Jackman joked today about naming his next Broadway show “Sam’s Club,” but the actor has something more pressing in the works: His latest X-Men vehicle, The Wolverine, hits theaters next month.

SOURCE: BLOOMBERG