Hubert Joly in June will turn over leadership of Best Buy to Corie Barry, currently chief financial and transformation officer, after leading a turnaround lauded by Wall Street and employees.
But Joly isn’t ready to retire yet. He will become executive chairman, helping with external and government relations, leadership development and really anything Barry asks him to do, he said.
“Leading this iconic Minnesota company has been the greatest honor and delight of my professional career,” said Joly, 59.
The Richfield-based company already has met financial goals set for fiscal year 2021 and Joly is a new grandfather, which he said made him decide this was the right time to put his succession plan in place.
When Best Buy lays out strategic plans for the next phase of the company at an investors day in September, Joly said he wanted Wall Street to see the leaders who will see that plan through.
Barry, having been promoted to executive vice president of transformation and finance in November, has been intimately involved in crafting the next steps in Best Buy’s growth. So has Mike Mohan, who following the company’s annual meeting on June 11 will add president to his chief operating title.
“Nearly seven years ago, the board made a stunningly good decision when they asked a Frenchman with no retail experience to save this company,” Barry wrote in a letter being sent to employees Monday morning.
“Perhaps without knowing it, Hubert had been preparing for that moment all his life, and he brought to the job his remarkable brain, boundless energy and deep passion,” said Barry, 43, who will become the company’s first female CEO. “Like all of you, I will forever be grateful to him for leading us during such dark days and then helping us find a path to true transformation and rebirth.”
Joly, who has several jackets sporting the Best Buy pin on the back of his office door, is known for fist bumps and high-fives when he visits stores and for his enthusiasm during corporate meetings. But his energy should not overtake his abilities, industry watchers have said.
“Joly brought financial rigor to the business,” Piper Jaffray’s Peter Keith said in January. “He brought a great, energetic, hardworking personality for people to get behind.”
That kind of enthusiasm had to be earned. The retail world was skeptical in 2012 when Best Buy chose Joly, then head of the Carlson hospitality company as its next CEO.
At the time, the last CEO had been ousted for having an inappropriate relationship. Best Buy founder Richard Schulze was trying to buy the company back. And the consumer electronics chain was faltering in the marketplace. Joly was the first outsider to lead the company, just as he had been the first nonfamily member to lead Carlson.
Joly then figured out with his team how Best Buy could reinvent itself during one of the biggest retail disruptions ever.
Over the past four years, annual earnings per share have nearly doubled. Same-store sales comparisons have risen for eight consecutive quarters. And he has changed the mind-set of the company: Instead of selling electronics, Best Buy will help to fulfill customers’ needs through technology. He likes to call it the “happiness” business.
That means putting more of an emphasis on in-home adviser services, a new health care monitoring business and the technology and staffing to allow people to shop the way they want, whether it is in a store or online. It also means continuing partnerships with companies from Samsung and Apple to Amazon to provide expertise to customers when they shop.
Yet to lead a company is never a 9-to-5 or even 9-to-9 job, he said, and he has been doing it in top spots for 20 years now. “To say it’s a full-time job is misleading,” he said in an interview. “These are all-the-time jobs.”
He would now like to slow down a bit. But he said he’s extremely proud of what the company has become. That includes greater training opportunities and benefits for employees at all levels and cutting turnover rate from the mid 50s to the low 30s.
More important, he said, is that the company has become “purpose-driven,” striving to make decisions that are good for employees and customers based on its stated mission.
“Hubert has done a tremendous job leading Best Buy’s turnaround, assembling a deep team of talented leaders and instilling a clear strategy for future growth and lasting success,” said Russell Fradin, Best Buy’s lead independent director and a board member since 2013, in a statement. “We are confident that Corie and Mike are perfectly suited … to drive Best Buy into the next phase of its transformation.”
Joly said Barry has been instrumental in his decisionmaking. “This has been the best professional relationship I’ve had,” he said. “She is a very human, authentic, purposeful leader.”
And her “wealth of experience at Best Buy is unmatched,” he said.
Besides two years at Deloitte and Touche just after graduating from the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph, Barry has worked her entire career at Best Buy.
“I could not have been more honored and humbled” at being elevated to CEO, Barry said in an interview. Her experience — and all the employees she has met from store associates to merchants and C-suite peers — convinced her that she was ready to take the top leadership role. Plus, she would be becoming CEO at a time of momentum, “a luxury.”
Barry said she’s a collaborative leader, ready to take advice from all levels, and grateful that Joly will be down the hall to consult. (They are switching offices and “have already worn a path.”)
The retail disruption, which will no doubt continue, means “constantly reinventing yourself.” However, the new strategies always must come back to the mission of helping people with technology, she said.
“What’s been very helpful is that in the last couple of years, we have gotten very clear on our purpose,” she said.
For example, when the company announced last year it would buy California-based Great Call for $800 million, she said Best Buy looked at it as an opportunity to help seniors stay in their homes as long as possible using technology.
Not only does the company provide monitors, backed by a call center, to help seniors if they are in trouble, Barry sees those monitors expanded into a “concierge” service to help people get whatever they need in consumer services.
Barry also sees opportunities in monitoring health such as sensors that can alert family members if a senior’s routine changes, possibly signaling a medical issue.
One of Joly’s goals during his tenure has been to diversify the C-Suite and the staff as a whole. Best Buy already has had one of the most diversified boards genderwise in the Fortune 500. Now, when Barry takes a seat as part of her promotion, the board will become 7-6 female.
Barry becomes the seventh current female CEO among Fortune 100 companies, according to Best Buy. She becomes the third female CEO of a Minnesota Fortune 500 company, after Land O’Lakes Beth Ford and Thrivent’s Terry Rasmussen.