Best Buy’s health chief Asheesh Saksena to step down

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Best Buy's health chief Asheesh Saksena to step down

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Shoppers at a Best Buy store in New York.

Bebeto Matthews | AP

An executive who led Best Buy‘s efforts to expand in health-care and connected devices is stepping down from his role, the retailer confirmed to CNBC Thursday.

Asheesh Saksena, president of Best Buy Health, will leave that post, but remain a strategic advisor to CEO Corie Barry, company spokeswoman Carly Charlson said in a statement. As Best Buy looks for a successor, Saksena’s team will report to Barry in the interim, she said.

Best Buy, known for its tech products and services like Geek Squad, has acquired two health tech-related companies in recent years and its CEO has spoken of bigger ambitions in the field. The two businesses are focused on making it easier and safer for aging adults to live independently in their homes. 

“His time with the company brought us meaningfully closer to our strategic goal of helping millions of Americans stay healthy through consumer technology and related services,” the company spokeswoman said. “Our strategy remains constant and we look forward to announcing a successor who will build on the progress made so far and help create an even more compelling future.”

Best Buy declined to say if Saksena is leaving for a role at another company. Saksena could not be immediately reached for comment.

Two years ago, Best Buy acquired GreatCall in a $800 million deal. The company makes easy-to-use cell phones and connected health devices, along with providing emergency response services for aging adults. Last year, it acquired another senior-focused company called Critical Signal Technologies, or CST.

In his role, Saksena oversaw those acquired companies, as well as Best Buy’s health-care initiatives and strategy. 

Barry has said in recent months that the Covid-19 pandemic has made the company’s health focus especially timely and relevant.

On a first-quarter earnings call in May, she said the company’s agents — who answer calls from the more than 1 million seniors who use its health care-related devices — had spent above average amounts of time on the phone with customers. Along with providing services for seniors, she said the company wants to make it easier for people to manage chronic health conditions at home.

“You can imagine there’s a great deal of interest around how at a much broader scale we can monitor people’s health and take care of them in their homes,” she told investors on the earnings call. “If this pandemic has highlighted anything, it is that keeping people at home as long as possible, but also tracking their vitals, tracking how they’re feeling is incredibly important.”

Walmart — another big-box retailer expanding in health care — confirmed its own leadership change earlier this week, which was first reported by The Wall Street Journal. Sean Slovenski, senior vice president and president of health and wellness for Walmart U.S., will leave the company. Two years ago, Slovenski, a former top executive at insurer Humana, was tapped to spearhead the big-box retailer’s health-care expansion efforts.

The retailer, which already has pharmacies at its stores, is opening a growing number of Walmart Health clinics with low-priced primary care, dental care and mental health services. It plans to open at least six additional clinics in the Atlanta area and to soon open its first clinics in the Chicago area and Florida.

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