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Best Buy's Dunn Leaves Mixed Legacy

4/23/2012 12:01:00 AM Eastern

MINNEAPOLIS – Brian Dunn’s departure from Best
Buy came abruptly following a 27-year climb to the top.

Dunn joined the company as a sales associate in
1985 and steadily rose through the ranks as a store
manager (1989), a Minnesota district manager in
(1990), East Coast operations
senior VP (2000), president of
retail North America (2004),
president (2006) and chief executive
(2009).
His ascendancy to CEO came
less than four months after the
collapse of Lehman Brothers,
which sent the global economy
into a tailspin and compounded
the competitive challenges facing
Best Buy.

“We believe that Brian Dunn never got a fair chance,”
Janney Capital analyst David Strasser observed in a
recent research note. “He came into the company at a
tough economic time and dramatically changing environment.
He got blamed for a lot of problems that were
out of his control.”

During his tenure Dunn positioned the company for
a multichannel future by cutting digital content deals,
expanding its online assortment, developing a connected-
store prototype, and building out its Best Buy
Mobile business.

In his last acts as CEO he began reducing store size
and closing unproductive locations, identified $800
million in cost savings, and bought out Carphone
Warehouse’s domestic interest in Best Buy Mobile – a
one-time charge that comprised most of last quarter’s
$1.7 billion loss.

Less than two weeks after announcing the latest actions
he was out, resigning amid an audit committee
investigation into personal misconduct. The company
has not commented on media reports that Dunn allegedly
used company resources to carry on an inappropriate
relationship with a female staffer, although a
spokesman for Best Buy’s board told TWICE that it
expects the investigation to be completed in “weeks, rather than months.”

The board has also created a committee under director
Kathy Higgins Victor to oversee the search for
Dunn’s successor. Six executive search firms are being
interviewed and a final selection will be made in the
next few weeks, the company said. The search itself
is expected to take six to nine months, and will include
internal and external candidates, including director and
newly-named interim CEO Mike Mikan and reportedly
Mike Vitelli, executive VP and president of its U.S. operations
and a longtime CE veteran.

Mikan has been on the board since April 2008, and
formerly served as executive VP and chief financial officer
of UnitedHealth Group and CEO of Optum, a healthcare
services company and affiliate of UnitedHealth.

Wall Street analysts and pundits are clamoring for
the new CEO to come from the online world and not
necessarily have a traditional retail background. — With
reporting from multiple TWICE staffers.

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