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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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