Best Buy's Founder Increases His Pressure On The Board To Let Him Buy Back The Company

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NEW YORK (Reuters) – Best Buy <BBY.N> founder Richard Schulze has reached out to some of the retailer’s top shareholders and Wall Street analysts, hoping they will press the company to allow his up to $8.8 billion buyout proposal to move forward, sources familiar with the matter said.Schulze’s advisers at investment bank Credit Suisse and law firm Shearman & Sterling LLP have reached out to investors including Putnam Investment Management LLC and Fidelity Management & Research Co, the sources said. Putnam and Fidelity account for 11 per cent of Best Buy.

Schulze’s team has also reached out to at least half a dozen analysts who publish research about Minnesota-based Best Buy, the sources said.

The tactic comes as Schulze’s team resumed negotiations with the world’s largest consumer electronics chain, after talks broke down last weekend, other sources familiar with the situation said.

The company, Schulze’s advisers and a representative for the former Best Buy chairman declined comment, as did the two investors.

Schulze, who owns 20.1 per cent of Best Buy, needs the board’s approval before he can make a formal bid. A Minnesota anti-takeover law prevents shareholders from launching a bid for a company for four years if they accumulate a stake without prior board approval. That means Schulze cannot form a buyout group with private equity firms or firm up financing for a potential bid until the board gives a go-ahead.

Moreover, sources have said private equity firms want to be able to do due diligence on the company – which is struggling against competition from rivals such as Inc <AMZN.O> and Wal-Mart Stores Inc <WMT.N> – before they commit to a buyout bid along with Schulze.

At this stage, Schulze’s team is pitching analysts and shareholders to put pressure on the company to at least open its books to them, so that they can put together a firm bid for the retailer.

But some of the analysts who met with Schulze’s advisers were still hoping for more details of his plan. One analyst who spoke with Schulze’s advisers said he was not given “any granularity on how they plan to get the deal done.”

These analysts said they believed it was hard for anyone to buy Best Buy. The company hired a new CEO on Monday and the board may want to first give him time to craft a turnaround strategy.

Best Buy investors “are sceptical about a deal getting done,” said Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter, who decided against taking a meeting with Schulze’s advisers.

But dismal quarterly results from Best Buy earlier this week could also add credence to Schulze’s argument that value is eroding by the day.

Two analysts said Schulze’s original proposal of $24 to $26 a share for Best Buy could be more palatable now to investors.

Best Buy’s shares closed down 3.9 per cent at $17.31 on Friday.

(Reporting by Dhanya Skariachan and Nadia Damouni; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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