Richard “Rick” Sharp, longtime chief executive of the now-defunct electronics retailer Circuit City and co-founder of used-car dealership chain CarMax, died June 24 at his home near Richmond. He was 67.
The cause was early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, according to CarMax and an investment firm he founded, V-Ten Capital Partners.
Before joining Circuit City in 1982, Mr. Sharp led a custom hardware and software business development company he founded at age 27. During Mr. Sharp’s tenure as Circuit City’s chief executive from 1986 to 2000, the company’s revenues grew from $175 million to more than $10 billion.
In the early 1990s, after giving a speech at a J.D. Power conference, he said he got the idea to expand into the auto business as a way to keep the company’s fortunes thriving. The idea was huge inventory and no haggling, he told the Richmond Times-Dispatch, adding that the name CarMax was settled on after “Sharp Motors” and “Honest Rick’s Used Cars” were rejected.
CarMax has grown to more than 135 stores with revenue of $12.5 billion in its latest fiscal year. He retired as board chairman in 2007.
According to the Times-Dispatch, Mr. Sharp led Circuit City into the home security business and other ventures that critics contend forced the parent company to lose focus and eventually to shutter in 2009 amid competition from Best Buy and other stores.
“It is a sad thing” that Circuit City is gone, Mr. Sharp told the Richmond paper last year. “They made some stupid decisions after I left.”
Mr. Sharp, who also was a founding investor of footwear company Crocs, was inducted into the Consumer Electronics Association Hall of Fame in 2008. He spent his later years promoting Alzheimer’s disease research.
Mr. Sharp was born April 12, 1947, in Washington and graduated in 1965 from the old George Washington High School in Alexandria.
In the mid-1960s he studied electrical engineering at University of Virginia but dropped out because his interest was in computer science — a field he said the college did not offer. “One semester, I went to class and I got B grades,” he told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “The second semester, I had no interest.” Instead, he added, he honed his skills at playing poker and pool.
He later took computer science classes at the College of William and Mary and attended Harvard Business School’s advanced management program.
Survivors include his wife of more than 45 years, Sherry Sharp; two daughters; and four grandchildren.