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Best Buy takeover attempt by founder in jeopardy: sources

A Best Buy logo is seen during Thanksgiving Day in San Francisco, California, November 22, 2012. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
A Best Buy logo is seen during Thanksgiving Day in San Francisco, California, November 22, 2012. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

By Olivia Oran and Jessica Toonkel

(Reuters) - Best Buy Co Inc founder Richard Schulze's effort to take the company private is in trouble after attempts to secure financing faltered while an alternative strategy to line up minority investors may not pan out either, five sources familiar with the matter said.

No longer pursuing a full takeover bid for the troubled electronics retailer, Schulze has focused discussions in recent weeks on a potential deal in which private equity firms would buy a non-controlling stake, the sources, who declined to be named because the discussions are private, said.

A minority investment -- which could take the form of a private investment in public equity (PIPE) transaction, is often used by small and mid-cap firms that have difficulty raising capital in public markets. Private equity firms typically get stock at a discount to the public market valuation.

But the potential investors remain unconvinced with the idea of investing in a company that has struggled to maintain market share against online retailers like Amazon.com Inc , the sources added.

Schulze has until Thursday to submit a buyout proposal to the Best Buy board, a deadline that was already extended in December to let him include the company's full-year results as part of his due diligence review.

For Best Buy's management, no deal means that the company has to execute its turnaround plan on its own. In September, Best Buy appointed CEO Hubert Joly in an attempt to reinvent the retailer.

Schulze, who founded Best Buy in 1966, was forced out as Best Buy chairman in June after an internal probe found he had not informed the board of allegations that former Chief Executive Brian Dunn was having an inappropriate relationship with a female employee.

Schulze originally informed the board last August that he was interested in teaming up with private equity partners to buy the company. He said in August that he could acquire Best Buy for $24 to $26 per share, valuing the deal between $8.16 billion and $8.84 billion and if debt was included as much as $10.9 billion.

He has been in talks with private equity firms Leonard Green Partners, Cerberus Capital Management and TPG Capital about a potential deal since late last summer, although those discussions have not made much progress, the sources said.

Best Buy, TPG and Cerberus declined to comment. Leonard Green could not be reached for comment.

Some analysts were skeptical from the get-go about Schulze's ability to win over potential investors.

"What exactly is he going to do differently that hadn't occurred to him (previously)?" said Michael Pachter, an analyst with Wedbush Securities." That's why people are not particularly impressed -- what is his big strategy that he didn't bother to share with anybody when he was chairman of the board?"

(Reporting By Olivia Oran and Jessica Toonkel in New York, additional reporting by Dhanya Skariachan, Martinne Geller and Soyoung Kim, Editing by Soyoung Kim and Alden Bentley)

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