When Hubert Joly was named CEO of Best Buy in the summer of 2012, he knew the magnitude of the challenge that lay ahead of him. But even chief executives can sometimes use a friendly pat on the back.
Joly had been hired for his expertise in corporate turnarounds—and his job was to fix Best Buy (BBY). The company’s stock price was plummeting, as competition from Amazon (AMZN) and other e-commerce retailers was increasingly eating into the consumer electronics store’s sales. Some were predicting that Best Buy was doomed to the same fate as its former competitors Circuit City and CompUSA, which had already gone out of business.
Complicating Joly’s task further, Best Buy was at the center of a tabloid infighting saga: Its prior CEO had resigned in April 2012 in the face of allegations that he’d had an “inappropriate relationship” with a female employee. Best Buy’s founder and then-chairman Richard Schulze also resigned amidst the scandal—only to launch a takeover attempt of Best Buy a few months later. (An unidentified Schulze associate told The Wall Street Journal at the time, “He considers the company a melting ice cube.”)
Faced with intense pressure, Joly did what many an executive might do if they could: He turned to Apple (AAPL) CEO Tim Cook. Apple is a very important vendor for Best Buy, whose stores have dedicated “shop-in-shops” displaying iPhones and other Apple products. Best Buy now sells more iPads than Apple Stores themselves do, according to Consumer Intelligence Research Partners. And, after Apple, Best Buy was also the first U.S. retailer to sell the Apple Watch.
So within weeks of taking the helm in Sept. 2012, Joly went out to Apple’s Cupertino headquarters to sit down with Cook, who was surprisingly empathetic to Best Buy’s plight. After all, Apple, led by Steve Jobs, had survived its own dark days back in the 1990s. In an interview with Fortune, Joly recounted the 2012 meeting—and the words of encouragement that Apple’s CEO offered him: Cook “was kind enough to say, ‘Years ago, in the media, it was always “the beleaguered Apple.” You’re now “the beleaguered Best Buy,” but there will be a good time after that.”
Three years later, better times have arrived at Best Buy. Read the full story on the retailer’s turnaround from Fortune’s November issue: “Meet the women who saved Best Buy.”
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