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Alan Wurtzel, son of Circuit City founder Sam Wurtzel and a former 13-year CEO of the now-defunct consumer electronics retailer, is critical of a lot of things that happened over the years at the company.But one person in particular stands out in his book “Good to Great to Gone,” which hits stores Tuesday.
Philip Schoonover was CEO of Circuit City from 2006 to 2008. He took over during a tough time, but there was still hope for survival. At the time, it was in third-place behind Best Buy and Walmart in consumer electronics.
Wurtzel says that Schoonover obliterated the culture, and in turn, the company.
“In short, during Circuit City’s last five years the company’s culture of honesty and fair dealing with employees and suppliers, the bedrock of its success, was systematically destroyed. So far as I can tell, the board stood by and took no action.
It would be hard to overestimate the damage that Phil Schoonover inflicted on Circuit City. Some of his strategic initiatives, particularly Firedog and the emphasis on flat-screen TVs had merit. The rest were either too late or poorly executed. On the other hand, he pursued reckless spending on IT, new stores, and, as we will see, reckless stock buybacks. Most important, he destroyed the Circuit City culture, which had already been weakened by [his predecessor Alan] McCollough’s lack of decisive leadership and inconsistent decision-making.”
Former Circuit City CIO Mike Jones explains in the book why he left the company. It pretty much sums things up:
“I left in 2007 because I began seeing the decline in our business, and rather than building one strong, cohesive team, founded on trust and support, we were building our team around fear and intimidation. Those elements are not aligned with my definition of success.”
And even down at the lower levels, workers weren’t happy. Wurtzel shares what an anonymous associate had to say:
“[The leadership] was feudal and paranoid. Initially, Schoonover appeared to be a visionary leader. We all wanted him to succeed. He proved to be a ruthless, superficial and vindictive person. He was an embarrassment to everyone. We never had a chance after he settled into power.”
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