UPDATE: February 5, 2020: Best Buy on Tuesday announced the conclusion of an investigation into CEO Corie Barry based on misconduct allegations. In a company press release, the audit committee of the board of directors said Best Buy "immediately retained outside legal counsel" upon hearing the allegations to conduct an independent review and has since decided to support "the continued leadership" of Barry.
"The Board takes allegations of misconduct seriously regardless of who is the subject," the board said in a statement.
Best Buy is investigating allegations of misconduct on the part of its new chief executive, the retailer confirmed to Retail Dive on Tuesday, following news reports last week that she previously had an inappropriate relationship with another executive. Corie Barry succeeded Hubert Joly last June after serving as CFO. The Wall Street Journal first reported the news.
"Best Buy takes allegations of misconduct very seriously," a spokesperson said in an email. "Upon the receipt of an anonymous letter containing allegations against our CEO, the Audit Committee of the Board immediately retained outside counsel, Sidley Austin LLP, to conduct an independent review that is ongoing. We encourage the letter’s author to come forward and be part of that confidential process. We will not comment further until the review is concluded."
Barry herself said in a statement emailed to Retail Dive: "The Board has my full cooperation and support as it undertakes this review, and I look forward to its resolution in the near term."
Barry may be one of the few female chief executives in corporate America, but that won't likely provide any cover in an era when inappropriate sexual or romantic behavior has become unacceptable, as Best Buy's swift response indicates.
Andrew Challenger, vice president of executive placement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, had previously speculated that the #MeToo movement could result in more women being named for the top post in business, at a time of high CEO turnover.
Last year had the highest number chief executive replacements on record, according to a Challenger report emailed to Retail Dive. As of November, 14 CEOs had left their positions while facing accusations of professional misconduct, according to an earlier report from the firm.
The rate of women being named CEOs has risen significantly since 2010, when 12.4% of CEO replacements were women. Men continue to represent "the vast majority of CEO replacements," accounting for 78% of them in 2019, according to Challenger.
"Following the #MeToo movement, companies were determined to hold CEOs accountable for lapses in judgement pertaining to professional and personal conduct, creating higher ethical standards at the C-level," Challenger said in a statement. "What may have gone unrecognized or was downplayed in the past was not overlooked by boards, shareholders, or the general public in 2019."
Barry's appointment as Best Buy CEO represented a smooth transition from the Joly era, when the electronics retailer successfully pivoted to a service-heavy model in a segment threatened by Amazon. It's not at all clear whether she would be ousted over the allegations.