Best Buy founder Richard Schulze, shown in 2000, returns to the company… (Richard Sennott / Associated…)
Best Buy founder Richard Schulze is throwing his support behind the current management, returning as chairman emeritus to the electronics retailer he left in a haze of scandal last year and then tried to buy out.
Schulze is bringing with him former Chief Executive Brad Anderson and former President and Chief Operating Officer Al Lenzmeier – both of whom were involved in Schulze’s potential acquisition plot.
Anderson and Lenzmeier were added immediately to the Best Buy board after being nominated by Schulze and will stand for election during the company’s shareholder meeting in June.
Schulze, who with a roughly 20% stake is Best Buy’s largest shareholder, said he has “come to know and respect” current Chief Executive Hubert Joly, a French turnaround artist brought in to perk up Best Buy’s lagging financials.
The company is struggling against online competitors such as Amazon.com, which often draw consumers away from Best Buy’s big-box stores with the promise of steeper discounts.
“My dedication to the company that I founded and love is unwavering and, together with Hubert and the Board, I determined that the best way to support Best Buy would be to return in support of the initiatives underway,” Schulze said in a statement.
Schulze resigned as the company’s chairman in May after it was determined that he had known about an inappropriate relationship between then-Chief Executive Brian Dunn and a female staffer.
Dunn stepped down in April amid an internal company probe. Schulze left the board fully in June and never followed through on an acquisition bid he had considered making for the company.
Of Schulze’s homecoming, Best Buy spokesman Jon Sandler said, “We’re of course delighted and are looking forward to having him in this new role.”
Schulze returns just as Joly’s revamp efforts seem to be making headway. This month, Best Buy reported improved earnings in its fourth quarter after several quarters of sliding profit.
The company narrowed its loss during the quarter ended Feb. 2 to $409 million, or $1.21 a share, from a loss of $1.82 billion, or $5.17 a share during the same period a year earlier. At $16.7 billion, revenue was mostly flat.
Best Buy recently implemented a new online price-matching program guaranteeing the same or lower prices as local and Internet-based rivals, designed to lure back “showrooming” shoppers. The company has also slashed hundreds of jobs in a cost-cutting effort.
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