State and Nation Business

Best Buy hires ex-Williams-Sonoma exec as CFO

NEW YORK – Struggling consumer electronics chain Best Buy said Monday that a former Williams-Sonoma executive will become its new chief financial officer beginning Dec. 10.

It's the latest executive move for the Minneapolis company since turnaround expert Hubert Joly joined as CEO in August.

Best Buy is trying to reverse a decline in its business due to a weak global economy and tough competition from online stores and discounters.

Sharon McCollam, 50, had been chief operating officer and chief financial officer at the home goods retailer before retiring. She also takes the title of chief administrative officer at Best Buy.

She replaces James Muehlbauer, who said he was leaving in October. Muehlbauer will continue to advise the company until the end of the fiscal year in February.

ISI Group analyst Greg Melich said McCollam is a solid choice to replace Muehlbauer. While she lacks direct consumer electronics experience, there are other similarities between the two retailers.

One similarity: Williams-Sonoma sells big-ticket items that are cheaper online. But through service offerings and online "prowess," Williams-Sonoma manages to sell 40 percent of its products directly. She is also talented in real-estate management, Melich said.

Muehlbauer's replacement by McCollam is one of several management changes made since Joly joined in August, after Best Buy's former CEO Brian Dunn left in April after an investigation into his relationship with a female employee.

Joly has eliminated two top executive positions in the U.S. and hired Expedia executive Scott Durchslag to head global e-commerce.

Meanwhile, Best Buy co-founder and former Chairman Richard Schulze is considering a plan to take the company private.

More information about Best Buy's plan will likely be given during a meeting with analysts on Tuesday. Best Buy reports fiscal third-quarter results Nov. 20. The company has forecast net income will be "significantly below" last year and a key revenue figure will fall.

Best Buy Co. shares rose 82 cents, or 5.4 percent, to $16.12 in morning trading Monday. Its shares traded as high as $28.53 in early December, but fell to a 52-week low or $14.38 last Tuesday.

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