Best Buy's Curious and Controversial CEO Move
Retailers like Best Buy must stop identifying themselves as retail companies. When you run in spaces that Apple(AAPL) and Amazon.com(AMZN) direct, you have to operate like a tech, Internet or new media startup. Assume the attitude and mindset Howard Schultz put in place long ago at Starbucks.
Chris Murphy is the only other member of the media I have come across who has connected the dots. After the Starbucks-Square deal, Murphy, editor of InformationWeek, asked: Could Your Team Do It?
As he outlined the ingredients that led to the forward-looking pact, Murphy highlighted "another, critical piece of innovation infrastructure: people." He noted that InformationWeek named Gillett CIO of the Year in 2011 for his role in building Starbucks' "innovative infrastructure" in mobile, thus enabling the Square agreement.
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.