- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 3, 2007

DALLAS (AP) — Blockbuster named James W. Keyes, former president and chief executive officer of 7-Eleven, as the chairman and chief executive officer of the struggling movie-rental company yesterday.

Mr. Keyes, 52, replaces John F. Antioco, who announced in March that he would leave by the end of the year after nearly a decade leading the Dallas-based company.

Blockbuster fights for survival as consumers increasingly look online to companies such as Netflix Inc. for movies.

“As the technology continues to evolve, it will be my job to have Blockbuster front and center as a player in those areas of technology,” Mr. Keyes said.

Mr. Keyes, who was with 7-Eleven for 21 years, retired when the convenience-store chain was sold in 2005 and has since served as chairman of Key Development LLC, a private investment company.

In May, Blockbuster said its first-quarter loss widened because of a soft market for movie rentals and heavy spending on its online rental program, which competes with Netflix.

Blockbuster in the fall introduced its “Total Access” plan, which gives its online subscribers the option of returning DVDs to a store instead of through the mail to obtain another movie more quickly.

“They created this Total Access carrot where you’re getting people into the stores; now you need them to spend money,” said Rick Munarriz, a senior analyst at the Motley Fool.

“The big problem with Blockbuster is, it can’t become the place where people go to get movies,” he said. “That’s a dying business model if you look at it in that sense.”

He said that because of his retail experience, Mr. Keyes is a good choice for Blockbuster.

“I don’t know if Blockbuster can be saved, but if it can, it will be with someone like this,” Mr. Munarriz said.

Arvind Bhatia, director of equity research at Sterne, Agee & Leach, said that during Mr. Keyes‘ tenure at 7-Eleven, the company did well financially.