The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Consumer

August 6, 2012

Best Buy founder offers to buy company, take it private

NEW YORK — Best Buy's co-founder is looking to make a buy of his own, offering to take the electronics seller private only months after leaving as the company's chairman.

Best Buy said it would consider the offer but called it "highly conditional." And analysts are skeptical that former Chairman Richard Schulze's opening offer of $24 to $26 per share would get a deal done and that it could be tricky to line up investment firms to help pay for it.

It's the latest twist in the Minneapolis company's struggles to stay relevant as more people buy electronics online. Over the past year, it has announced a major restructuring plan and fired CEO Brian Dunn amid allegations that he had an inappropriate relationship with a female employee.

Best Buy is trying to avoid the fate of its rival Circuit City, which went bankrupt in 2009, partly because of changing shopper habits.

The offer values the company at as much as $8.84 billion. Schulze already has 20.1 percent of the stock in the company, so paying for the rest of shares would mean coming up with about $6.9 billion.

Schulze resigned as chairman in May, after Dunn's departure. A company investigation found that Schulze knew about the inappropriate relationship and failed to alert the board or human resources.

Schulze had been expected to stay on the board until the company's annual shareholder meeting in June, but he resigned unexpectedly before the meeting and said he was exploring options for his hefty stake in the company. Analysts had been expecting a possible bid since that announcement.

"Immediate and substantial changes are needed for the company to return to its market-leading ways," Schulze said in a statement. "It is my strong belief that Best Buy's best chance for renewed success is to implement with urgency the necessary changes as a private company."

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