Best Buy's Curious and Controversial CEO Move
That brings us back to the burning question: Why make the anti-Yahoo! move and pass up young tech blood?
First, Best Buy's board likely viewed Joly as the safe choice. I'm not so sure they expected such a negative reaction from investors and the media, particularly after having positioned Joly as a successful turnaround architect.
Second, because Gillett is young, has never been a CEO and lacks Best Buy-like retail experience, the board likely viewed him as a risky choice. Ironically, the media probably would have reacted more positively to Gillett than it did Mayer, particularly since Gillett is not pregnant. There's no question that the young new-media types would have praised the move as visionary.
Third, the Best Buy board might be smarter than we think. Even though it happened under the previous regime of former CEO Brian Dunn and Founder and former Chairman Richard Schulze, this board hired Gillett. And as I have reported, it continues to load him with key responsibilities. There is no doubt that an influential faction at Best Buy thinks the firm needs to roll more like a tech company.
The media has given Joly an incredibly unfair shake. I had never heard of the guy until Best Buy hired him. I would guess that his most vocal critics never had either or know very little about the man.
If he is indeed the turnaround artist Best Buy claims he is, maybe the company put him in place to sort out internal disarray. Maybe he's the perfect person to deal with corporate issues on the inside, while Gillett leads what is a related, but ultimately distinct process of positioning Best Buy as something other than a big-box retailer, something unrecognizable to itself.
Simply put, Joly focuses on cleaning up the internal mess. He allows Gillett's current plans and vision to proceed, while grooming him to become Best Buy's future CEO. It makes absolutely no sense to bring in a person who has no interest in working with a key recent hire with a more-than-compelling background. In fact, I think Best Buy brought Joly in to work with Gillett.
As an aside -- and maybe it's more than an aside, I simply do not know yet -- former Best Buy CEO Brad Anderson sits on the Carlson board. Anderson, of course, is a member of the old guard that Schulze would like to make part of the turnaround team if he is able to gain control of Best Buy.
Take this for what it's worth. But more importantly, as an investor, don't do what so much of the media does. Don't jump to the easy conclusion. At the same time, don't get long; keep tabs on a situation that's probably more complicated than the media reaction to the Joly hiring makes it out to be.
At the time of publication, the author held no positions in any of the stocks mentioned in the article.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.