Will Best Buy (NYSE: BBY) Follow Dell (NASD: DELL) and Go Private?
On the heels of Dell (NASD: DELL) going private, will struggling retailer Best Buy (NYSE: BBY) follow suit?
In July of last year, Best Buy founder Richard Schulze floated a proposal to take the struggling Minneapolis-based company private. The proposal was leaked nearly immediately, and sent speculators pushing the stock up. The proposal involved using a considerable amount of his own money as well as a sizable investment from a consortium of private equity investors to repurchase the bulk of the company’s outstanding shares at around $25 per share. The total value of the deal would approach $6 billion. At Best Buy’s current stock price of $12.26, a $25-per-share buyout would represent a 100 percent premium for current shareholders.
Going private creates lots of money—for lawyers, investment bankers, and other parties who benefit from the fees generated. Whether these transactions will ultimately salvage either Dell or Best Buy is much less certain.
The proposed deal would be conditioned upon approval by Best Buy’s board of directors as well as a customary shareholder vote. While the company’s board might prove reticent to accept a deal that many perceive as unfavorable, Schulze’s willingness to pay a significant premium for the company suggests that shareholder approval is all but assured. If the bid is approved by both parties, it could close by the end of the first quarter of 2013. Further negotiations could push back its closing date into the second quarter of 2013 or beyond. The deal could also be delayed by infighting between Schulze and other interested investors.
The challenge for Best Buy is that customers will likely continue to use the stores as showrooms, coming in to look over expensive electronics in person, getting tons of service and advice from Best Buy’s sales staff and then making their purchases online. The prices at Best Buy will have to be within range of online prices in order to be competitive. That is challenging for a brick and mortar store with large amounts of overhead.
Schulze was forced to resign from the chairman position after the Best Buy board discovered that he had failed to inform them about accusations of personal misconduct involving former CEO Brian Dunn. Whether he returns as a savior to the firm could finally provide focus for a firm that has been languishing for the past few years. No matter what happens in terms of ownership, Best Buy must take drastic steps to right their ship.