Best Buy CMO Leaves Company

Michael Linton Had Led Marketing Efforts at $30.8 Billion Retailer Since 2002

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AdAge.com) -- Michael Linton, exec VP-chief marketing officer, has left electronics retailer Best Buy after nearly four years in the top marketing slot.
Best Buy CMO Michael Linton is leaving the company 'for personal reasons.'
Best Buy CMO Michael Linton is leaving the company 'for personal reasons.'

The Minneapolis-based company with $30.8 billion in sales and a nearly $1 billion advertising budget has named Barry Judge, senior VP-consumer brand marketing and a Best Buy marketing veteran, as the interim head of marketing. The company declined to discuss why Mr. Linton, 49, left. "He told us it's for personal reasons," said a spokeswoman. He could not be reached for comment.

Effective two weeks ago
Mr. Linton, who left effective Aug. 17, oversaw a staff more than 500, including the chain's customer care-call centers, in-house advertising agency, brand marketing and communications departments.

He joined the company in January 1999 as senior VP-consumer brand marketing and was promoted to exec VP-chief marketing officer in March 2002. During his tenure Best Buy nearly doubled its store base and today operates nearly 960 stores.

Mr. Linton exercised a good bulk of his stock options -- 50,400 shares -- on August 17, his last day at Best Buy, for $34.18. He sold the shares the same day for $49.54, effectively walking away with $774,144, according to SEC filings.

Mr. Linton's departure will likely not impact the retailer's agency relationships, as marketing is handled in-house by Best Buy Advertising, headed by Ruby Anik, senior VP-advertising, who oversees the 200-person agency.

Worst nightmares
In his position, Mr. Linton faced two of a retailing executive's worst nightmares -- operating in the competitive electronics category and fending off Wal-Mart Stores and its aggressive push over the last few years to up its electronics offerings, from big-screen TVs to personal computers.

Although the electronics retailer is testing boutique concepts aimed at particular niches, including eq-Life, a health and wellness store, under Mr. Linton's leadership the retailer also worked to isolate and target consumer niches within its core Best Buy stores.

Mr. Linton's team identified five customer types, including "Jill" (soccer moms), "Barry" (affluent married men) and "Buzz" (tech geeks). The chain recently beefed up its direct-marketing efforts, hiring Omnicom Group's Rapp Collins, Dallas, to bolster its direct-marketing capabilities, including efforts tied to its Reward Zone loyalty program. It also works with Publicis Groupe's Tapestry, Starcom, Chicago, and Avenue/A Razorfish, Seattle.

Best Buy's same-store sales were up 4.9% in the first quarter ended May 27. The chain reports second-quarter results Sept. 12.
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