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However, Wall Street analysts have doubted whether Schulze ever had the financing in place. They questioned why investors would be so eager to pay billions for a struggling retailer facing intense competition from the likes of Amazon and Wal-Mart.
The Star Tribune previously reported that Schulze was set to submit a bid in mid-December but that he agreed to a last-minute request by Best Buy to extend the deadline to late February, so he could fully consider the company’s holiday performance.
The move seemed to pay off. Best Buy reported stronger-than-expected sales in December, and analysts expect a good January. Over the past two months, Best Buy’s stock has soared more than 40 percent, making a buyout more costly for Schulze and his partners.
The source close to Schulze has consistently insisted that Schulze could have made a credible offer, though some analysts remain skeptical.
If Schulze did not a submit a bid, “I can’t imagine he had the money to buy Best Buy,” Spieckerman said.
Instead, Schulze looked for another way to reclaim control without having to borrow billions of dollars for a buyout, holding extensive discussions with directors about returning to the board, the source close to Schulze said. However, directors opposed Schulze’s desire to lead the board. “They want him back,” the source said. “They don’t want him back as chairman.”
As a result, the prospect of board turmoil could linger for Best Buy, just as the company is regaining strength under Joly’s leadership.
“Whenever the founder stays on the board, that always presents a tricky problem,” said Hillary Sale, a law professor who specializes in corporate governance at Washington University in St. Louis. “Add to that the complexity of a founder who came and went and now wants to come back again. That is messy.”
Thomas Lee • 612-673-4113