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Personal conduct probe led to departure of Best Buy CEO

By Thomas Lee and Paul Walsh, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) –

MINNEAPOLIS — An investigation into personal misconduct led to the sudden resignation of Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn, the electronics retailer acknowledged Tuesday.

“Certain issues were brought to the board’s attention regarding Mr. Dunn’s personal conduct, unrelated to the company’s operations or financial controls, and an audit committee investigation was initiated. Prior to the completion of the investigation, Mr. Dunn chose to resign,” said Claire Koeneman, of H+K Strategies, and a spokeswoman for the Richfield, Minn.-based electronics retailer.

The revelation came in response to questions from the Star Tribune about whether Dunn’s behavior was a factor in the decision that he step aside. Within the past two weeks, Dunn told analysts that he was “excited about the strategy we have for the future.”

In a statement Tuesday, Best Buy said that Dunn’s departure was in “mutual agreement that it was time for new leadership to address the challenges that face the company.”

Best Buy board member G. Mike Mikan has been named interim CEO while a search for a successor to Dunn begins.

“I have enjoyed every one of my 28 years with this company, and I leave it today in position for a strong future. I am proud of my fellow employees and I wish them the best,” Dunn said in the company statement.

“We thank Brian Dunn for his many years of service to the company and wish him well in his next endeavors,” said company founder Richard Schulze. “As we move forward, we are very pleased to have a strong leader with Mike Mikan’s credentials as interim CEO.”

Dunn began working at Best Buy in 1985 in a sales position. He took over as CEO in June 2009, at age 49.

Through most of his three-year tenure, the beleaguered Best Buy CEO has endured criticism for his stewardship of the struggling consumer electronics giant. Despite frequent calls for his dismissal, Dunn presided over some of the biggest changes in Best Buy’s history.

Last month, the company said it would close 50 big-box stores and cut 400 corporate positions to save $800 million over three years. It is also expanding in China, more quickly rolling out smaller Best Buy Mobile stores and testing its experimental “Connected Store” format.

The retailer, which boasts about 1,100 stores in the United States, has been losing market share to Wal-Mart and online competitors like Amazon. The company’s core market, big-ticket consumer electronics items like PCs and flat-panel televisions, has been rapidly shrinking as more consumers migrate to the Internet for their shopping.

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