Richard Schulze 101: The Visionary Founder of Best Buy
Zatrun Published at February 16, 2024

In the world of consumer electronics, one name stands out as a visionary and trailblazer: Richard Schulze. His journey from humble beginnings to the founding of Best Buy, one of the world’s largest retail giants, is a testament to entrepreneurial spirit and innovation. has delved deep into the life and career of this remarkable American billionaire.

Richard Schulze: Early Life and Entrepreneurial Drive

Richard M. Schulze was born on March 25, 1941, in Saint Paul, Minnesota. He grew up in the heart of Minnesota and attended Central High School. After completing his high school education, Schulze spent time serving in the U.S. Air Force with the Minnesota Air National Guard. Following his military service, he embarked on a career as a consumer electronics salesman.

Schulze’s journey through the world of consumer electronics was not only shaped by his career but also by his dedication to education. He holds an honorary degree from the University of St. Thomas in Saint Paul, a testament to his commitment to personal growth and development.

Founding Best Buy: A Retail Revolution

In 1966, Richard Schulze took a bold step, mortgaging his own home to found an audio equipment store named Sound of Music in Saint Paul. Over the years, the business expanded to nine stores, and it was an unexpected turn of events that led to the birth of Best Buy. When a tornado struck and damaged one of the stores, Schulze seized the opportunity with a “tornado sale.” This innovative approach, offering a vast selection of goods at low prices, was a massive success.

Schulze recognized the potential in this new approach and rebranded the chain as Best Buy. The concept of superstore format, featuring 18,000-sq-ft stores, everyday low prices, and heavy advertising, resonated with consumers. Best Buy’s model, offering a wide range of consumer electronics and more, quickly gained popularity.

In the following years, Best Buy’s success soared, and it became a household name with 40 stores by 1989. Schulze’s commitment to providing excellent service led to the elimination of the commission model, focusing on a customer-friendly approach. Best Buy expanded its offerings to include computer software, music, movies, and computer hardware. In 1994, the average store size increased to between 45,000 and 58,000 sq ft.

By 1995, the chain reached $5 billion in sales with 155 stores. Best Buy continued to adapt to consumer needs, adding appliances and kitchen utensils to its offerings in 1996. Richard Schulze’s innovative and consumer-centric approach transformed the way people shopped for electronics and appliances.

Challenges and Triumphs

Richard Schulze’s journey with Best Buy was not without its challenges. In May 2012, he stepped down as Best Buy’s chairman amid an investigation revealing that he was aware of the CEO’s relationship with a female employee but did not report it to the audit committee.

However, his commitment to the company persisted. In August 2012, Schulze made a bid to buy out Best Buy, having already owned 20% of the company. While the news boosted Best Buy’s share price, talks eventually ended. Schulze’s efforts to acquire a minority stake in the company and secure board seats did not materialize due to funding challenges.

On March 25, 2013, Schulze made a significant return to Best Buy when he rejoined the company as chairman emeritus, reaffirming his connection to the business he founded. His deep understanding of the retail landscape and consumer electronics industry continued to be an invaluable asset.

A Philanthropic Legacy

Richard Schulze’s impact extended beyond the corporate world. He has demonstrated a strong commitment to philanthropy. In 2000, Schulze made a substantial donation of $50 million to the University of St. Thomas, marking the largest contribution to a Minnesota college or university at the time. This generous gift supported the UST School of Law and the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship.

Schulze’s philanthropic endeavors did not stop there. In 2014, after a devastating fire at the Naples, FL YMCA, the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation donated $1.5 million to aid in the restoration. Additionally, in 2018, the Sky Family YMCA in Bonita Springs, Florida, received a generous donation of $750,000 from Schulze through his Family Foundation.

Personal Life and Legacy

Richard Schulze resides in Naples, Florida, where he has built a life surrounded by family, community, and philanthropy. He is a Catholic and was previously married to Sandra J. Schulze until her passing in 2001. Together, they had four children. Schulze has since remarried, and his commitment to family values and community engagement remains a core part of his life.

November 9, 1991, was a significant day in Minnesota when Governor Arne Carlson designated it as Richard M. Schulze Day, honoring the remarkable contributions of this visionary entrepreneur. Richard Schulze’s journey from a small audio equipment store to the founder of Best Buy and a notable philanthropist is an inspiring story of resilience, innovation, and dedication. His impact on the world of consumer electronics and education continues to leave a lasting imprint.

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