Richard M. Schulze, the founder and chairman of embattled retailer Best Buy, is quitting earlier than expected, the New York Times reported today.
Schulze had agreed to step down as chairman after the company’s June 21 annual meeting and stay on the board for another year.
But this morning the 71-year-old told his fellow directors that he was leaving the board, effective immediately, and was considering selling his 20.1 percent stake in the company, which is struggling to compete with online competitors.
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“There is an urgent need for Best Buy to reinvigorate growth by reconnecting with today’s customers and building pathways to the next generation of consumers,” Schulze said in a statement cited by the New York Times.
“I have shared my views with the board and today informed them of my decision to resign as chairman and a director, effective immediately, in order to explore all available options for my ownership stake.”
Schulze agreed to relinquish his positions in Best Buy after a scandal involving former chief executive Brian Dunn, who resigned amid an investigation into allegations that he was having an inappropriate relationship with a female subordinate. The company’s audit committee found Schulze had known about the romantic affair, but failed to tell the board.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Schulze will be replaced by Hatim A. Tyabji, a long-standing board member and head of the audit committee.
Schulze’s owns some 73 million shares in Best Buy, worth about $1.4 billion, and his announcement that he was looking to sell the entire stake is likely to drain confidence in the company, Forbes noted.
“Who else would know more about a business’ inner workings than the person who created it?” Forbes said.
Reuters reported that shares of Best Buy fell as much as 8.5 percent after the shock announcement.