How France’s Hubert Joly turned his company around

Image copyright AFP / Peter Lomas Image caption Frenchman Hubert Joly built a record with 34 successful turnaround deals during the early 2000s French turnaround specialist Hubert Joly has spent his career negotiating tough…

How France's Hubert Joly turned his company around

Image copyright AFP / Peter Lomas Image caption Frenchman Hubert Joly built a record with 34 successful turnaround deals during the early 2000s

French turnaround specialist Hubert Joly has spent his career negotiating tough deals on behalf of French companies and attempting to turn them around.

He joins the board of US electronics retailer Best Buy, where he will be tasked with improving the group’s efficiency.

Here, BBC business editor Martin Chulov explains his role.

He is a charismatic businessman – charming and self-deprecating – while also a canny negotiator.

From the age of 17 he helped steer a French company he co-founded from bankruptcy into the independent sector.

He organised the toughest and most complex restructuring ever undertaken for a company of that type in Europe – in 1999.

Mr Joly was determined to keep the company afloat while also dealing with angry unions – for several years after, he does not talk about what they saw as his shabby handling of the case.

He then was widely seen as one of the most innovative dealmakers in Europe – turning around the failure of private equity groups to turn around Groupe ETC with clever ideas and cost-cutting.

Image copyright AP Image caption His top deal was the elimination of Groupe ETC’s debt by selling a controlling stake to LVMH

After that, in the early 2000s, he struck a series of successful buy-ups across the Atlantic.

These deals were never easy, and Mr Joly has never been afraid to portray himself as a man of steel who could do the ugly hard negotiating.

Some of the deals were difficult, such as the “Stepardys” turnaround of the Belgian beer group Carlsberg.

Mr Joly never got the lucrative severance he was after, but was, quite possibly, one of the most successful US entrepreneurs ever of that generation.

He took his limited knowledge of retailing to work in the US, falling in love with the process and making friends with the large executives and senior managers he met.

Under his leadership, EPR, the company which still owns Best Buy, has made an industrial renaissance from a beleaguered retailer into a $29bn (€26bn, £24bn) major retailer with a flourishing financial services unit.

Image copyright AP Image caption But that success has been somewhat overshadowed by recent management turmoil at Best Buy

He is trying to repeat that in the US, a market he considers to be “our lifeblood”.

That market is not the same as the one he built up in Europe, and in particular France, which he left in 2002, or in Belgium, where he made a fortune as the head of an investment group known as Eurazeo.

Mr Joly also has experience of turning large, publicly listed companies around. In 2008, he created a private company, The Carlyle Group, based in Luxembourg, that advises large corporate companies in the world.

In 2015, he set up his own private equity firm, JCP Partners, which raised €1.5bn (US$1.7bn, £1.4bn) in an initial public offering in Frankfurt.

He came out of retirement for his new role at Best Buy and admitted in his first speech that the chairmanship of the giant retailer “will be a challenge of an unprecedented size.”

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