Best Buy hires Carlson's Hubert Joly as new CEO

  • Article by: DAVID PHELPS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 20, 2012 - 9:36 AM

Carlson board selects CFO Trudy Rautio as its new head.

Hubert Joly, the urbane, French-born businessman who was the first non-family member to run the Carlson Companies, is leaving the Minnetonka-based travel and hospitality giant and will take the top job at Best Buy Co.

After four years as chief executive of the $4.5 billion organization, Joly told Carlson leaders on Friday that he was resigning to take a position with an unnamed publicly traded company.

Early Monday Best Buy issued a press release confirming Joly's appointment as president and CEO and confirming that he will start in early September. Joly replaces George "Mike" Mikan who had served as interim CEO but now moves back to the Best Buy board as chair of the audit committee.

In the release, Best Buy Chairman Hatim Tyabji lauded Joly's leadership style. "Hubert's range and depth of experience in transforming companies is exactly what the company needs at the moment, as is his energetic, imaginative and experienced leadership in executing strategies," said Tyabji

During emergency meetings over the weekend, Carlson's board selected chief financial officer Trudy Rautio, a 15-year Carlson executive, to be the company's next president and chief executive officer, effective immediately. Rautio is only the fifth CEO in Carlson's storied history.

Carlson Board Chairwoman Marilyn Carlson Nelson called Rautio "the ideal leader" to continue Carlson's "Ambition 2015" brand strategy and to carry the company's "strong momentum" into the future.

"We have complete confidence in Trudy's ability to lead us," Nelson said. "Trudy will be a wonderful steward of our culture."

During an interview, Rautio said, "I'm very humbled and very grateful to the family and the brand. Things went very, very fast."

Before her 15 years at Carlson, Rautio, a native of International Falls, Minn., served as chief financial officer for Josten's Inc. and as vice president of finance for the Pillsbury Co. before its merger with General Mills.

Nelson thanked Joly, 53, for his eight years with the company -- four as chief executive of Carlson Wagonlit Travel and four as CEO of Carlson, whose brands include TGI Friday's, Radisson hotels and Country Inns and Suites by Carlson, as well as Carlson Wagonlit.

Joly could not be reached for comment.

His appointment to the Best Buy position follows a months-long search for a new CEO, following the departure in April of Brian Dunn after the board raised concerns about an inappropriate relationship that Dunn had with a 29-year-old employee. Dunn had been replaced by Mike Mikan, a Best Buy director, on an interim basis.

Nelson said Joly was "a great leader" who steered the company through a "complex economic environment."

"Carlson is on strong financial footing and we are grateful for his contributions," Nelson said in a video being distributed to employees that was also viewed by the Star Tribune.

Indeed, in its most recent financial report, for 2011, the privately held company indicated it was on a recovery road from difficult years in 2008 and 2009. It reported overall revenues of $38 billion, which was closing in on its pre-recession revenue level of $39.8 billion in 2007.

Nelson said the family and the board knew that a nonfamily chief executive such as Joly could be "enticed" with another career offer. She said she was pleased, however, that the newest CEO came from within the Carlson ranks.

"We have a CEO that appreciates the leadership team and is committed to developing new leaders," Nelson said in an interview. "It feels very comfortable."

No swift changes planned

Under Joly, the company revitalized its Radisson hotel chain and introduced the upscale Radisson Blu concept. Carlson got out of the less-profitable marketing sector during his tenure and modernized the Friday's brand. Corporate travel giant Carlson Wagonlit also saw good growth as the recession faded and business travelers hit the road again.

Rautio, 59, said she sees no immediate changes in strategy.

Carlson Companies, which is in its 74th year, was the brainchild of legendary Curt Carlson and began as a loyalty company with Gold Bond trading stamps. Carlson, who liked to call himself an "ultra entrepreneur," expanded into hotels, restaurants and travel in both domestic and international markets.

Various Carlson entities -- many owned by franchisees -- now operate in 150 countries and employ 170,000 employees.

The New York Times contributed to this report. David Phelps • 612-673-7269

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