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Office Depot names VP of investor relations

BY Dan Berthiaume

Boca Raton, Fla. – Office Depot has named Michael A. Steele as VP, investor relations, effective immediately. Steele reports to Stephen E. Hare, executive VP and CFO.

Steele will develop and execute Office Depot’s investor relations strategy, serving as the primary interface for management with the financial community. He plans to relocate to the Office Depot corporate headquarters in Boca Raton in the coming months.

Rich Leland, having led both treasury and investor relations for Office Depot since April 2013, will continue as VP finance and treasurer, assuming additional key responsibilities in an expanded role.

Steele most recently served as VP, investor relations for OfficeMax Incorporated, where he had been employed since July 2007. Previously, he worked at The ServiceMaster Company, a residential and commercial service network, in various corporate finance roles including financial planning, treasury, and mergers and acquisitions. Early in his career, he held financial roles in the telecommunications industry and banking.

“As we work to integrate Office Depot and OfficeMax, clear and effective communication with our investors and the financial community is essential,” said Hare. “We are excited about the depth of experience and expertise that Mike brings to this role, particularly the relationships that he has formed while at OfficeMax.”

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Best Buy holiday revenues fall 2.5%

BY Dan Berthiaume

Minneapolis – Best Buy Co., Inc. saw its revenues for the nine-week holiday period ended Jan. 4, 2014 fall 2.5% from the same period a year earlier. Holiday revenues for the 2013 season were $11.45 billion, compared to $11.75 billion in the 2012 season.

Consolidated same-store sales only grew 0.1%, although online sales increased 23.5%. Best Buy cited a more intense than expected promotional pricing environment as a key factor in its disappointing holiday results.

“When we entered the holiday season, we said that price competitiveness was table stakes and an intensely promotional holiday season is what unfolded,” said Hubert Joly, Best Buy president and CEO. “In both channels, the promotional intensity that began with Black Friday continued throughout the period, which led us and our competitors to answer one question, do we make the incremental investment necessary to be price competitive and defend our market share? For us, there was only one answer. To advance our Renew Blue transformation, it was imperative that we live up to our customer promises and one of these promises is to offer our customers competitive prices.”

Best Buy now expects a decrease in fourth quarter operating income rate, although the retailer said it gained market share during the holiday period.

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Report: Starbucks app exposes user passwords

BY Dan Berthiaume

Seattle – The Starbucks mobile app reportedly stores customer passwords in a way that leaves them vulnerable to hackers. According to CNN, the app, which allows mobile payment, stores passwords in plain text, meaning a hacker could gain access to one without knowing a smartphone’s PIN code.

To steal a user password, the hacker would have to plug the smartphone into a computer and also have knowledge of how to gain access to a plain text file. However, doing so would allow a thief to spend money from a customer’s Starbucks account and potentially reveal password data that could be used on other digital accounts the customer holds.

Starbucks representatives told CNN that there are no reports of any Starbucks customers having their mobile app hacked, but gave no other information.

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