Best Buy Co. Inc. just can’t catch a break. Chairman and founder Richard Schulze is jumping ship earlier than expected, taking with him a 20.1% stake in the struggling electronics retailer.
Schulze, 71, told the company’s board Thursday morning that he is resigning immediately.
“I continue to believe in Best Buy and its future -- and care deeply about its customers, employees and shareholders,” he said in a statement. “There is an urgent need for Best Buy to reinvigorate growth by reconnecting with today’s customers and building pathways to the next generation of consumers.”
Originally, Schulze was to step down as chairman on June 21 and stay on as a director through June 2013, relinquishing his positions in the wake of a scandal involving former Chief Executive Brian Dunn.
Dunn resigned in April, before an internal investigation concluded that his relationship with a female employee showed “extremely poor judgment” but no misuse of Best Buy’s resources. The investigation, however, found that Schulze had “acted inappropriately” by failing to tell the company’s audit committee about Dunn’s indiscretions after being told about them.
Schulze, who Best Buy said in a statement had “changed the landscape of American retail,” now plans to “explore all available options” for his ownership stake. He will be replaced as chairman by Hatim A. Tyabji, who led the audit committee and has been a board member since 1998.
Best Buy’s new team, including interim Chief Executive Mike Mikan, now has a giant’s task ahead. The chain’s net income plunged 26% during its first quarter. The retailer has closed dozens of superstores and is shrinking others to keep pace with online rivals such as Amazon.