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Best Buy’s Anderson To Retire

1/26/2009 02:00:00 AM Eastern

Best Buy president/COO Brian Dunn has assumed the mantle of CEO from Brad Anderson, who will retire in June.

No decision to fill Dunn’s prior positions has been made.

Anderson, who led the company during a spectacular growth cycle, will also relinquish his role as vice chairman. He said in a statement that the “timing for my retirement is consistent with my personal goals and in accordance with our succession plan.”

He added, “I’ve always wanted to leave the organization at the right interlude, when I saw a new leader ready to take the organization to a new level, higher than I could take it myself,” Anderson, 59, continued. “Based on his readiness and the journey we’re about to begin, I’ve concluded that this is the right time for my story as CEO naturally to end, and Brian’s story to begin.”

During his three years as president, Dunn, 48, “drove the company’s domestic business to new highs” in terms of market share, employee retention, vendor relationships and customer-satisfaction scores, the company said.

Dunn joined Best Buy as a store associate in 1985, became a store manager in 1989, and a Minnesota district manager one year later. By 2000 he was senior VP of Best Buy’s East Coast operations, and was named president of retail North America in 2004.

In a statement, Best Buy founder and chairman Dick Schulze said, “Brian has demonstrated a rare ability to connect with people and inspire them to work together to accomplish extraordinary things. We’re pleased and excited that Brian has accepted this new role and will be leading our company through future challenges and toward new and exciting opportunities ahead.”

Dunn said in a statement that he is “honored and excited to lead the next chapter in this company’s amazing story.” Thanks to the foundation laid by Anderson, “Best Buy has earned the opportunity to play a unique role in the lives of people – helping them unlock the promise of technology. We … believe the value we can bring to people is timeless and universal, applicable literally around the world.”

Anderson joined the company as a stereo salesman 30 years ago and would become its second CEO after Schulze, a post he has held for seven years. During his tenure annual revenue more than doubled to $40 billion and the store count increased from some 600 locations to nearly 3,900 stores in 13 countries.

Anderson was also the chief architect of Best Buy’s customer centricity strategy, which the company credits in large measure for its recent success. His controversial decision to make it a cornerstone of the business after Best Buy had already achieved CE supremacy — along with his investments in Geek Squad and Carphone Warehouse — positioned the retailer for continued growth at home and abroad.

Industry observers found the timing of the succession surprising. While acknowledging the truism that “there is never a 'good time’ for a great CEO to leave,” Goldman Sachs analyst Matthew Fassler said Dunn must now master a new skill set to manage Best Buy’s global growth.

On the positive side, he said in a research note, Circuit City’s decision to liquidate “presents Best Buy with a clearer competitive field… than ever before” and provides a “windfall” for Dunn.

During a conference call held hours after the announcement, Anderson said he wanted to spend more time with his family. He noted that Best Buy had recently offered corporate workers the opportunity to leave the company and said “It’s not a bad time to join them.”

Dunn thanked Anderson for his mentorship, which he jokingly described as his best and worst experience. He acknowledged the “uncharted economic waters ahead,” but said the company “steadfastly believe[s] in the course we charted,” and that the challenging times will create new opportunities for companies that can execute well and stay close to their customers.

Dunn also acknowledged that Best Buy is targeting former Circuit City shoppers, as this period “is all about customer acquisition,” and will continue to deepen its relationship with existing customers over the next five years by offering everything from “the cheapest TV for Aunt Louise” to the most complex home-theater experience.