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Continued: Interview with Robert Willett, former CEO of Best Buy International

  • Article by: THOMAS LEE , Star Tribune
  • Last update: April 13, 2013 - 5:10 PM

A: We were constantly innovating. We took the time to activate a device from 40 minutes to 3 or 4 minutes. We had some great people in the U.S. stores like Jude Buckley and Shawn Score. It wasn’t rocket science. The real strength of the business is that you could go into Best Buy and figure out who was accountable. We made it a stand-alone business, installed a separate board of directors and then we reincorporated back into the company. As a result, it didn’t suffer from the nonsense and politics.


Q: People expect Joly to pull Best Buy out of places like China and Europe. Smart move?

A: I don’t know. The management has to deal with the situation they face. They have to focus, they can’t be butterflies and touch everything. At the end of the day, when you go international, it’s about income and sales. It’s about the lessons learned. Candidly, I would go into countries online. That’s the way you assess the market. If you like it, you put a store down. The days of opening stores everywhere are over. I think some form of international will be there but it doesn’t have to be bricks and mortar and you don’t have to own the stores. You can do a joint venture. You could do franchises. What you can’t do is to let your core market be under pressure. They have to focus on the U.S. in the next year or so. That’s the No. 1 priority.


Thomas Lee • 612-673-4113

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  • Robert Willett, a retired Best Buy senior executive, says the current top managers led by CEO Hubert Joly “have to focus on the U.S. in the next year or so. That’s the No. 1 priority.”

  • Robert Willett

    Age: 65.

    Personal: Played rugby and crew in college. Splits time between homes in Great Britain and the United States.

    Career highlights: Executive vice president, chief information officer, international CEO, Best Buy, 2001 to 2010. Global managing partner, retail, Accenture, 1994-2001. Store executive, Marks & Spencer, 1968-1978. Currently serves as chairman at MetaPack and board director at Mobile World and Occa-Home.

    Education: Studied economics at Shifnal College in Wiltshire, England.

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