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Stephen Gillett. Photo: Annie Laurie Malarkey

It was a big deal earlier this year when Best Buy lured Stephen Gillett away from Starbucks to lead digital efforts for the Minneapolis  consumer electronics retailer. But shortly after Gillett’s arrival in March, Best Buy entered a tailspin. The stock — down nearly 50 percent this year — continued to fall after management changes and earnings misses. The most recent setback came last month when Best Buy announced a quarterly loss of $13 million, results that CEO Hubert Joly called “clearly unsatisfactory.”

Now, Gillett, a highly-regarded technologist and past “Geek of the Week” on GeekWire, is moving on from the retailer after just nine months. He plans to join Symantec as COO, a company where he has served on the board.

“We are grateful for Stephen’s contributions during his time at Best Buy,” said Best Buy President and CEO Hubert Joly in a press release. “And we wish him well as he returns to his roots and assumes a very senior role at Symantec.”

Gillett’s departure is yet another blow to the embattled retailer, which is in the midst of competing with for the pocketbooks of gadget-crazed Americans. Thomas Lee at the Star Tribune called the news “a stunning twist” since Gillett was portrayed “as a kind of technology savior when he was hired.”

Every time I heard about Best Buy’s woes, I wondered about Gillett, and whether he could make any sort of headway in an organization clearly experiencing massive turmoil. In today’s release, Gillett said he will miss working with the teams at Best Buy, adding that he still believes it “could be one of the most significant business transformation opportunities in recent years.”

A graduate of the University of Oregon, Gillett previously served as CIO of Corbis. In our interview with Gillett last year, we asked him what it means to be a geek.

“Be who you are, be confident and humble and always look for the opportunities to be a student,” he said.

Guess those opportunities just seem a bit better at Symantec.

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