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UPDATE 5-Best Buy CEO to retire, COO Dunn to take over
January 21, 2009 / 1:18 PM / in 9 years

UPDATE 5-Best Buy CEO to retire, COO Dunn to take over

(Adds company comment)

By Karen Jacobs

ATLANTA, Jan 21 (Reuters) - Best Buy Co (BBY.N) Chief Executive Brad Anderson will retire from that post in June and be succeeded by Chief Operating Officer Brian Dunn, the No. 1 U.S. consumer electronics retailer said on Wednesday.

The company said the move was part of its succession plan. Some analysts noted that Dunn, who became president in 2006, takes over from a widely respected CEO just as a deepening recession tests sales.

“Like any transition there’s just question marks about what his leadership is going to look like,” said Brad Thomas, an analyst at KeyBanc Capital Markets. “The big challenge right now is running Best Buy in the consumer environment that we’re in.”

Anderson, 59, will retire as CEO on June 24. During a conference call, he said he wants to work less and spend more time with family.

He said Dunn, 48, was “absolutely and indisputably the right leader” as Best Buy enters its next phase of growth.

A more-than-30-year veteran at Best Buy, Anderson has been CEO for seven years and was only the second person to take the top job after company founder Richard Schulze.

Under his leadership, Best Buy launched a program to focus more intently on consumer needs and moved into international markets. Best Buy, for example, announced a joint venture with Britain’s Carphone Warehouse CPW.L last year to expand into Europe.

Anderson “has been a visionary, shepherded the rise of Best Buy as the industry leader and the demise of (its) biggest competitor,” J.P. Morgan analyst Christopher Horvers said in a research note.

Best Buy’s smaller, bankrupt rival Circuit City Stores Inc CCTYQ.PK began liquidating its assets last week and is closing hundreds of U.S. stores after failing to find a buyer.

Horvers said the customer centricity program has helped Best Buy stand out as discounters such as Wal-Mart Stores (WMT.N) and warehouse clubs expand into electronics.

Analysts expect Circuit City’s failure will benefit Best Buy’s market share over the longer term and allow it to gain more clout with suppliers. COURTING NEW CUSTOMERS

Dunn, a skilled operator who is highly regarded internally, said Best Buy would court new customers world-wide.

“We’re not going to get beat on price,” Dunn told Reuters in an interview. “The consumer is more acutely focused on value right now and you will find us right there with them and we won’t blink.”

Dunn started working at Best Buy in 1985 and worked his way up to store manager and district manager before becoming president of North American retail in 2004. The U.S. stores, Geek Squad technical service, and company marketing, customer experience and merchant functions report to him.

“The next phase for Best Buy will play to some of Brian’s strengths in terms of what is (the company‘s) role going to look like in the U.S. now that Circuit City is going away,” said Thomas, the KeyBanc analyst.

Best Buy shares closed up 8 cents to $27.31 on the New York Stock Exchange after trading as low as $26.31 earlier in the session. (Additional reporting by Aarthi Sivaraman and Nicole Maestri in New York; Editing by Dave Zimmerman, Brian Moss, Leslie Gevirtz)

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