Digital Guru Stephen Gillett Leaves Best Buy for Symantec
Just nine months after joining Best Buy Company, Inc., digital executive Stephen Gillett is leaving to join antivirus software firm Symantec.
The news comes at a time when Best Buy is attempting to bolster its share of the online market. Best Buy’s website attracted 1 billion visits in fiscal 2012 but converted only 1.3 percent of those visits into sales—and President and CEO Hubert Joly has indicated that boosting digital efforts is among the key priorities in his plan to turn the struggling electronics retailer around.
When Gillett joined the Richfield-based company in March as president of the digital and global business services division and an executive vice president at the company, he was lauded as a digital guru who brought a transformational approach to retailing and digital technology.
Symantec—a major Best Buy vendor—said late Wednesday that Gillett will serve as its executive vice president and chief operating officer, effective Friday. The Mountain View, California-based company said that his initial responsibilities will include marketing, communications, and “the IT function,” although additional duties will be added to his plate in conjunction with a strategy announcement that Symantec intends to make in late January.
“Stephen is the perfect fit for the direction we are taking Symantec,” Chairman and CEO Steve Bennett said in a prepared statement. “He has been deeply involved in the transformation of a number of high profile companies at the executive level and is highly respected in the CIO community worldwide. Stephen’s appointment will ensure that Symantec is well-positioned for addressing our consumer and business customers’ needs.”
Gillett came to Best Buy from Starbucks, where he served as chief information officer (CIO). Before that, he held the same position at Corbis—a digital media company owned by Microsoft founder Bill Gates—and he previously spent nearly a decade in Silicon Valley, holding senior technology positions with Yahoo! and CNET Networks.
At Best Buy, Gillett oversaw the company’s e-commerce business and IT operations—and he was in charge of the company’s global digital strategy, digital marketing efforts, and entertainment offerings. Best Buy said at the time of his hire that he’d be responsible for finding new ways to “make technology a bigger part of the customer experience while enhancing operations and processes.”
Enhancing digital efforts has been a key focus for Best Buy recently. Last month, Joly—who took the reins in September—outlined key priorities of his turnaround plan, dubbed “Renew Blue.” In addition to wanting to improve operating margin and return on invested capital, Joly indicated that one of his priorities is to put the “pedal to the metal” in terms of investment in the digital space, and he acknowledged that the company has been too slow to capture its “fair share” of the online market.
Best Buy said late Wednesday that Gillett’s responsibilities have been re-assigned to senior executives across the company, including Sharon McCollam, who joined the company last month as its chief administrative officer and chief financial officer; Scott Durchslag, who came on board in October as senior vice president and president of online and global e-commerce; and Shawn Score, senior vice president of U.S. retail.
“We are grateful for Stephen’s contributions during his time at Best Buy,” Joly said in a brief statement. “And we wish him well as he returns to his roots and assumes a very senior role at Symantec.”
Best Buy, which has cut jobs and closed big-box stores this year, has seen a major exodus of leaders in 2012. Among those who have left: Ryan Robinson, chief financial officer (CFO) for the company’s U.S. operations; Chief Technology Officer and Geek Squad founder Robert Stephens; Chief Marketing Officer Barry Judge; and Dave Deno, CFO of Best Buy’s international division and president of its Asia region.
In a Wednesday tweet, Gillett said: “I will miss the wonderful teams at Best Buy. Our time together was short, but our friendships and experiences lifelong.”
Gillett has been a member of Symantec’s board since January, and the company said Thursday that he’ll step down from that role immediately.
Best Buy—for which founder and former Chairman Richard Schulze is working on a takeover bid—reported a net loss of $13 million, or 4 cents per share, from continuing operations for the quarter that ended November 3. That’s compared to net earnings of $173 million, or 47 cents per share, for the same period a year ago. Excluding restructuring charges, the company’s net loss totaled $10 million, or 3 cents per share—falling significantly short of the 12 cents that analysts polled by Thomson Reuters were expecting.