Geek Squad Founder Exits Role as CTO of Best Buy

Robert Stephens, who founded The Geek Squad nearly two decades ago, has left Best Buy and is "ready to build new companies," although he has agreed to serve as an outside advisor to Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn.

Robert Stephens, founder of The Geek Squad, has stepped down from his role as chief technology officer (CTO) of Richfield-based Best Buy Company, Inc.

Stephens founded The Geek Squad 18 years ago as a technology-repair company, and his start-up was acquired by Best Buy 10 years ago. Today, it employs 20,000.

Following the acquisition, Stephens remained with Best Buy and went on to become CTO in 2010.

He revealed his departure in a Wednesday blog post, stating that he is “ready to build new companies,” although he has agreed to serve as an outside advisor to Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn.

“This lets me help where I can, and also gives me the freedom to pursue new possibilities,” Stephens wrote.

Stephens said that mobile computing and wireless technology will dramatically change the technology landscape during the next decade, and he “cannot wait to play in this area.”

“Now I want to take what I've learned founding a start-up and combine it with the experience I gained working at a Fortune 50 company,” he wrote.

Read Stephens' full blog post here.

Dunn also released a memo about Stephens' exit, chronicling the history of Best Buy and The Geek Squad, and stating that Best Buy's services business is now central to its global growth strategies-“a show of confidence that is built in large part on the success of Geek Squad around the world.”

Dunn described Stephens as a “born entrepreneur,” adding that Dunn “knew it was only a matter of time before his curiosity and his desire to create something new would lead him to look outside the walls of Best Buy.” Dunn also said Stephens plans to relocate to California.

Neither Dunn nor Stephens specified in their online posts what new opportunities Stephens will pursue.

Best Buy spokeswoman Paula Baldwin told Twin Cities Business on Wednesday that succession plans for the now-vacant position of CTO have not been determined.

Best Buy is Minnesota's third-largest public company based on revenue, which totaled $50.3 billion for the fiscal year that ended in February 2011; financial results for the most recent fiscal year will be reported later this month. For the quarter that ended November 26, net income fell 29 percent to $154 million, while revenue totaled $12.1 billion, up 1.7 percent.

Citing analysts, the Star Tribune reported that The Geek Squad has grown from 60 employees and nearly $3 million in sales to the world's largest tech-support operation with annual revenue of $1 billion to $1.5 billion.

Retail observers say Stephens' departure may deal a significant blow to Best Buy, as The Geek Squad generates much of Best Buy's overall profits and its core stores are struggling, according to the Star Tribune. Flora Delaney, a retail consultant and former Best Buy executive, told the Minneapolis newspaper that Stephens gave Best Buy credibility in the eyes of the tech community.