Best Buy opens the probe to the CEO’s personal conduct

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The advice of

Best Buy Co.

is investigating allegations that the executive president

Corie Barry

He had an inappropriate romantic relationship with an executive partner, who has since left the electronics retailer.

The accusations were sent to the board in an anonymous letter dated December 7. The letter states that Ms. Barry had a romantic relationship for years with the former senior vice president of Best Buy

Karl Sanft

before assuming the position of CEO last June. The Wall Street Journal reviewed a copy of the letter earlier this week.

“Best Buy takes allegations of misconduct very seriously,” a spokesman told the Wall Street Journal. The Richfield, Minnesota company said its board has hired the law firm Sidley Austin LLP to conduct an independent review that is ongoing.

“We encourage the author of the letter to come forward and be part of that confidential process,” the Best Buy spokesman said. “We will not comment further until the review is complete.”

Ms. Barry did not address the accusations and said she is cooperating with the investigation. “The Board has my full cooperation and support while conducting this review, and I await its resolution in the short term,” he said in a statement.

Sanft, former senior vice president of retail operations, did not comment on this article. He left Best Buy in early 2019 and is now the chief operating officer of 24 Hour Fitness Worldwide Inc.

Both Mrs. Barry and Mr. Sanft joined Best Buy about 20 years ago and ascended the leadership ranks. By 2008, he was senior vice president in the sales operation, according to LinkedIn. Ms. Barry became senior vice president in the financial operation in 2013. She assumed interim president of the company’s Geek Squad division in 2015 and became financial director in 2016.

Ms. Barry, 44, is one of the youngest CEOs of an S&P 500 company and one of the few women. She succeeded

Hubert Joly,

who led a change in the retailer and still serves as its chief executive.

Mr. Joly’s predecessor as CEO resigned abruptly in April 2012 after the board opened an investigation into his personal conduct. The company was exploring whether it misused the company’s assets in the course of an alleged relationship with a subordinate, the Journal reported at the time.

The founder of the company,

Richard Schulze,

He resigned as president in May 2012 after the investigation supervised by the board discovered that Mr. Schulze did not alert other directors that the CEO allegedly had an inappropriate relationship with an employee.

The 2012 investigation concluded the former CEO,

Brian Dunn

He participated in an “extremely close personal relationship” with a 29-year-old subordinate who “negatively impacted the work environment,” although he found no evidence that he had abused the company’s assets.

Best Buy shares doubled over the past year and closed at $ 89.94 on Friday, near record highs. The action dropped after the Journal first reported on the board’s investigation.

Leading leaders have been under scrutiny for inappropriate relationships with other employees, especially in the wake of the broader “Me too” movement. The letter to the references of the Best Buy board expelled

McDonald’s Corp.

CEO

Steve Easterbrook,

who was fired last year for a relationship with an employee.

Write to Sarah Nassauer at sarah.nassauer@wsj.com and Dana Mattioli at dana.mattioli@wsj.com

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