Mike Joly, CEO of Best Buy, on a revolution he’s ‘not sure’ will happen

“The good news is that the share price has gone up a lot, which is very good,” he told my colleague, Justine Roberts, on a CNBC podcast. “The bad news is that I’m losing…

Mike Joly, CEO of Best Buy, on a revolution he’s ‘not sure’ will happen

“The good news is that the share price has gone up a lot, which is very good,” he told my colleague, Justine Roberts, on a CNBC podcast. “The bad news is that I’m losing money. If it had stayed the same, I would have been very pleased.”

Joly, who was paid a total of $55.5 million for 2018, took office at Best Buy in August 2016 and kicked off a companywide search for a CEO. He took the chain’s private capital partnership, or PLP, public earlier this year. It took months to establish a reputation and manage its burgeoning debt load, and Joly rapped his knuckles and got some tough love from the board and activist investor Corvex Management, which owns a 6.2 percent stake in the company. But Best Buy has largely been on a roll since Joly took office. It just reported revenue of nearly $50 billion for the year, and net income of $1.57 billion.

But Joly, who is in the midst of doing a deep re-evaluation of Best Buy’s operations, said on CNBC that it will take more than the turnaround of Best Buy to fix capitalism. “The revolution doesn’t happen by itself,” he said. “You have to build the platform that puts in the right people and sets the bar high enough.”

His investments in Uber and Gilead have earned him acclaim from pundits. (Joly declined to be interviewed for this story, saying that he doesn’t like to respond to “political” or “innovative” ideas.) But Joly said that in the case of the taxi companies that are being taken over by Lyft and Uber, it wasn’t simply a matter of technology.

“These are complex business models that are not easy to replace,” he said. “Sometimes the right person can help you solve the problem, but it takes more than the right person. … There are people who have the right idea and can do it well, but they don’t have the right platform.”

And those platforms will take some time to build. “When it comes to Airbnb, I think we’re in a pretty good position,” he said. “Many of the entrepreneurs that are building Airbnb have deep talent relationships. They’re building platforms in areas that we, as an enterprise, are not in, we shouldn’t be in.”

Joly said that there is a certain virtue in these founders losing their independence as some observers bemoan and often suggest. But he said his experience with the taxi-industry turnaround has shown that not everything about capitalism is shiny and new.

“Capitalism is actually rooted in the fact that some people are not always right,” he said. “At the end of the day, it may be a repeatable thing that they need a platform to support. They may not be in a good place in their business, but it may be a one-off situation or a massive situation that can be solved. … You can try to take them on and they’ll fight you, and you can try to change them … The success that we’ve seen at Gilead is not a fluke.”

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