See more of the story

Best Buy Co.'s board of directors is investigating allegations that chief executive Corie Barry had an inappropriate romantic relationship with a colleague who left the company a few months before she became its leader.

The Richfield-based company hired an outside counsel, Sidley Austin LLP, to conduct an investigation "that is ongoing," it said in a statement Friday.

"Best Buy takes allegations of misconduct very seriously," the company's statement said.

The action came after the board received an anonymous letter signed "We are Best Buy" that purported to represent "a group of employees." The letter was also sent to several news organizations, including the Star Tribune.

"We encourage the letter's author to come forward and be part of that confidential process," Best Buy said in its statement.

The company said it would not comment further until the investigation was concluded.

Barry said in a statement: "The Board has my full cooperation and support as it undertakes this review, and I look forward to its resolution in the near term."

Barry, 44, succeeded Hubert Joly as chief executive in June, becoming one of just seven women who lead a Fortune 500 company. She is married and has two children.

She joined Best Buy as a financial analyst nearly 20 years ago. She advanced through finance and operational roles, including interim president of the Geek Squad, and became chief financial officer in 2016.

Joly, who remains executive chairman of Best Buy, was brought in to lead the company in 2012 after its board investigated the personal conduct of his predecessor, Brian Dunn. It found that Dunn engaged in a personal relationship with a younger female employee that damaged the workplace environment.

The letter said that Barry had a romantic relationship for years with Karl Sanft, whose final post at the company was as a senior vice president who oversaw retail store operations in the United States.

Sanft at one time had been Barry's boss, according to the letter. He left Best Buy in March and is now the chief operating officer of 24 Hour Fitness Worldwide Inc., based in San Ramon, Calif.

He could not be reached for comment.

In a statement, 24 Hour Fitness said: "We are aware of the news coverage of the Best Buy CEO probe that names Karl Sanft as part of the story. We are gathering more information and will not comment further at this time."

The writers of the letter describe themselves as a group of employees in several states who have worked at the company from seven to 25 years.

"We love Best Buy as family," the letter said, "and would quite literally do anything for the organization."

The letter writers said Barry should resign or the board should fire her.

The Wall Street Journal first reported news of the board's investigation in an article posted minutes before the stock market closed. Best Buy shares, which had jumped as much as 2.2% earlier in the day, sold off in the final minutes to close 1% higher.