Blockbuster picks tech-savvy CEO

July 02, 2007 11:45 AM EDT

At first glance it seems like an odd choice. Blockbuster Inc. is in a fierce battle with online video-renter Netflix Inc., yet it picked James Keyes -- who was previously chief of 7-Eleven Inc. -- as its new CEO & chairman. 7-Eleven? You'd think they'd pick someone with more digital cred (see analysis at But the company notes that Keyes was a leader in upgrading 7-Eleven's retail systems technology and electronic services.

Blockbuster noted:

"Under Keyes' leadership ... at 7-Eleven from 2000 to 2005, the company experienced record sales and profits and implemented new retail systems technology that improved product assortment decisions in every store. He also ushered in a new era for 7-Eleven through the introduction of a host of new electronic services, which helped the convenience-store chain become as well known for its cutting-edge use of technology as for Slurpees."

Board member Carl Icahn added: "...he has a strong multi-unit retailing background and an impressive record of introducing new customer-focused technologies into a business that have driven financial results."

In a 2005 interview with Baseline magazine, Keyes understood that data is destiny. He described "how the company uses data from its point-of-sale systems to spot trends, find growth opportunities and control shelf space. 7-Eleven’s store are like a big, distributed research facility, where it can test market ideas for different products in different geographies in near real-time," commented blogger Dan Farber.

That tech-savvy must be what Blockbuster is looking for, too.

By the way, during the Keyes reign 7-Eleven also was known for renting on-demand (utility) computing from Electronic Data Systems Corp. (EDS), and for exploring RFID technology.