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Why Best Buy Might Follow in Yahoo's Footsteps

I have reason to believe that Stephen Gillett could become the next CEO at Best Buy (BBY).

I made the case for the former Starbucks (SBUX) CIO in May. (See: Best Buy May Have Already Found Its New CEO).

In a nutshell, Gillett is already on board as a president at the company. From what I understand, he's a key ingredient in Best Buy's turnaround. It doesn't take an insider to figure this out. Just peek at Gillett's growing list of responsibilities via his LinkedIn (LNKD) profile:

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Official duties include enterprise efforts for: Digital, Marketing, E-Commerce, Information Technology, Corporate Development, Enterprise Strategy, Store Design/Channel Experience, Enterprise Customer Care, Consumer Insights, New Ventures, Entertainment, Business Services which includes divisional Finance, HR, IT, Legal.

Officially, Best Buy calls Gillett, "President, Best Buy Digital, Global Marketing and Strategy." Sounds like a CEO to me. It would make little sense to bring in a new leader as opposed to going with one who is obviously well qualified to lead and entrenched in the turnaround process.

It would make even less sense to go the typical route and hire a 50-something, lifetime retail slave who thinks adjusting the lights, properly "merchandising" in-store and reducing the square footage of soulless big box stores will somehow thrust Best Buy into legitimate competition with (AMZN).

Instead, Best Buy needs a CEO who can find creative ways to change the company's culture. It's not as much about competing with pioneers such as Amazon as it is about becoming their peers or even finding ways to partner with them.

We can take something away from Yahoo's (YHOO) decision to name former Google (GOOG) executive Marissa Mayer its new CEO.

This may or may not be significant, but executive headhunter Spencer Stuart placed Mayer at Yahoo. The firm also heads up Best Buy's ongoing CEO search. Furthermore, the man leading the Best Buy search at Spencer Stuart, Jim Citrin, also led Yahoo's CEO quest.

Corporate headhunters aren't all that much different from media consultants in some industries. When I worked in radio, I got most of my jobs through consultants. These people double as headhunters. You don't call them; they call you. And they essentially place you in a position.

In my experience, they get on certain kicks, so to speak. Headhunters often develop a picture in their minds of the type of person who fits a certain type of role at particular period of time.

Clearly, Citrin and Spencer Stuart -- influenced heavily by Yahoo shareholder Daniel Loeb -- decided that it made sense to go the young route. They also hired a person who has never been a CEO. That said, she spent 13 years playing an instrumental role in Google's enormous success.

She's well known for making Google's properties and products easy to navigate. Almost minimalist. If Yahoo! needs anything right now, it's a person with vision to come in and clean things up. Yahoo has excellent content, a terrific brand, and plenty of media talent; it just needs to slim the operation down and focus on its strengths.

Mayer is at home in Silicon Valley; therefore, it only made sense to move her down the road from one tech giant to another giant that hasn't been sure what it is for years.

Mayer and Gillett have a bit in common. Mayer is 37. Gillett is 36 (maybe 37). He actually worked at Yahoo early in his career, led massive and wildly successful mobile and technology efforts at Starbucks, and sits on the board at Symantec (SYMC).

Simply put, Gillett is a Silicon Valley guy just as Mayer -- no disrespect intended -- is a Silicon Valley Girl. And Gillett has something going for him: At least the chauvinist pigs of Wall Street and the media cannot pounce on his appointment because he is with child. (He does have several children, though. He might need to consider disowning them just to show investors that there will be no distractions for this first-time CEO.) 

But I digress, just as sarcastically as I regressed.

Long ago, we entered a new era in business, particularly in the media, technology and retail spaces. Amazon and Apple (AAPL) single-handedly forced the transformation.

We live in a time where you don't automatically run to an MBA to run the show. Sure, Gillett has an MBA. That's not a sin. It would only be a sin if he thought like an MBA. Getting the degree serves professional and practical purposes. No doubt about it. But the great leaders and visionaries of our time do not think like MBAs.

They're young. They're accomplished. They're incredibly confident. They're not managers. They take chances. They think long term. They do not allow short-term fear of making a mistake or propping up the bottom line interfere with opportunity.

They're more like Jeff Bezos and Steve Jobs and less like (enter name of old, tired, recycled-more-than-a-professional-football-head-coach 55-year old BlackBerry-using CEO here).

There might be something to this Spencer Stuart-Yahoo-Best Buy CEO search connection. For Best Buy's sake, I hope there is.

At the time of publication, the author held no positions in any of the stocks mentioned in this article.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

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