Richard M. Schulze
Richard M. “Dick” Schulze, the founder of The Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation, is also founder and chairman emeritus of Best Buy Co., Inc., the world’s largest multi-channel, consumer-electronic retailer.
Born and raised in St. Paul, Minnesota, Schulze is the ultimate entrepreneur and is living the American dream. From a modest background, he and a hand-picked team built a retailing empire based in the Twin Cities. Through it all, he adhered to his life-long values of integrity, humility, honesty, and respect – both in his professional career and his personal life. In years to come, Schulze hopes to be remembered by a personal legacy involving three major contributions through business, entrepreneurship education and philanthropy.
After working as a manufacturer’s representative for electronics components, in 1966 Schulze founded his own company, The Sound of Music. The business expanded to six stores in Minnesota by 1983, when Schulze renamed it Best Buy, adopted a warehouse format, and expanded into many more kinds of consumer products. The company soon went public and began a period of remarkable growth when Schulze revolutionized the industry by introducing the superstore to electronics.
Schulze served as Best Buy’s Chief Executive Officer from 1983 to 2002 and then as Chairman until 2012. He rejoined the company in 2013 as Founder and Chairman Emeritus. Today, Best Buy employs more than 145,000 people and operates more than 1,400 stores in the U.S. and 479 stores in Canada, China and Mexico.
Even though his plans to attend college never materialized, Schulze became trustee and major donor of the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota – the school where he enrolled before joining and serving full-time, active duty in the Air National Guard. In 1998, the University of St. Thomas awarded him an honorary doctoral degree. (He also holds an honorary doctorate from the University of Minnesota.)
In 2000, Schulze and his late wife, Sandy, donated $50 million to St. Thomas – then the largest donation ever to a Minnesota college or university – founding the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship in Schulze Hall, part of the university’s downtown Minneapolis campus. Founded in 2005, the Schulze School has worked to become a leader in entrepreneurship education and outreach. Students learn to turn innovative ideas into sustainable businesses and hundreds of businesses have benefitted from its expertise, consulting and start-up support.
Schulze served on the University of St. Thomas’ board of trustees for 20 years, 1995-2015, before retiring from the board; he remains chairman of the university’s Opus College of Business Board of Governors.
The Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation
Schulze has long supported nonprofit organizations in the Twin Cities and Minnesota. He and Sandy established the Richard M. and Sandra J. Schulze Family Fund in the mid-1990s as their main vehicle for donations to Twin Cities’ social service charities related to health care, education and family. Sandy died in 2001 from mesothelioma, a rare cancer caused by asbestos exposure.
A desire to identify and fund “transformative changes benefitting mankind” led Schulze to start The Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation in 2004. In June 2013, Schulze announced plans to gradually expand the Foundation from $100 million to about $1 billion. Schulze chairs the Foundation’s board of trustees.
Always an Active Entrepreneur
Schulze currently serves as Chairman and President of Olympus Ventures, LLC, President and Director of Founders Properties, LLC, and is Founder and President of Best Jets International, a charter aircraft company that operates out of Minneapolis. He is a member of the Minnesota Business Partnership, a collective of the state’s 85 largest corporations that works alongside legislators to develop public policy.
Schulze remarried in 2002. His wife, Maureen, who also lost her first spouse to mesothelioma. Maureen spent her professional life as a nurse and holds an honorary doctorate from the University of St. Thomas. Together, Dick and Maureen have 10 children and 33 grandchildren and are now permanent residents of Florida.
James Wetherbe, of Entrepreneurship EIX, interviews Dick Schulze. Hear Dick talk about entrepreneurial spirit and the choices that lead him to the creation of Best Buy.