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TheStreet Open House

Best Buy's Curious and Controversial CEO Move

Stocks in this article: BBY SBUX YHOO AAPL AMZN

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- There must be more to what seems like an increasingly absurd story at Best Buy (BBY).

In late May, I wrote an article called Best Buy May Have Already Found Its New CEO. I argued that it "needs to think like a tech company" and lauded its March decision to name Stephen Gillett, formerly the chief information officer and head of digital ventures at Starbucks (SBUX - Get Report), as president of Best Buy Digital and Global Business Services.

Gillett, who also sits on the board at Symantec (SYMC), has since become president of practically everything at Best Buy. Just look at his LinkedIn profile.

Best Buy continues to pile duties on to Gillett's plate. Why then wouldn't the company elevate the man who essentially operates as COO to the CEO slot?

At first blush, particularly in the aftermath of Yahoo!'s (YHOO - Get Report) decision to name Marissa Mayer CEO, it seemed like a no-brainer.

Like Mayer, Gillett is under 40. He's not a retail lifer from the Midwest. He cut his teeth in Silicon Valley and drove mobile strategy at Starbucks for the last four years, laying the groundwork for the company's recent landmark mobile payments deal with Square.

Pause there for a second because it's the pivotal point that makes it appear as if Best Buy erred by passing up Gillett and giving the job, seemingly out of nowhere, to Hubert Joly, who ran privately-held Carlson Cos. Joly is 53 and, by all accounts, not tech- or mobile-savvy in the slightest. On the surface, he seems like the last person Best Buy should have turned to.

Every analyst in the world seems to think Best Buy should have named somebody with more retail experience as CEO. That's absurd. People with "more retail experience" deserve all of the blame for the mess Best Buy is in.

Retailers like Best Buy must stop identifying themselves as retail companies. When you run in spaces that Apple (AAPL - Get Report) and Amazon.com (AMZN - Get Report) direct, you have to operate like a tech, Internet or new media startup. Assume the attitude and mindset Howard Schultz put in place long ago at Starbucks.

Chris Murphy is the only other member of the media I have come across who has connected the dots. After the Starbucks-Square deal, Murphy, editor of InformationWeek, asked: Could Your Team Do It?

As he outlined the ingredients that led to the forward-looking pact, Murphy highlighted "another, critical piece of innovation infrastructure: people." He noted that InformationWeek named Gillett CIO of the Year in 2011 for his role in building Starbucks' "innovative infrastructure" in mobile, thus enabling the Square agreement.

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