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Blank, Arthur M.

Blank, Arthur M.

(1942-)
The Home Depot, Inc.

Overview

Arthur M. Blank, with partner Bernard Marcus, founded The Home Depot, Inc., the largest home improvement chain in the world. With more than 1,200 stores and 227,000 employees, the company offers everything for do–it–yourselfers from lumber and plumbing supplies to paint and wall coverings. Each store, which is approximately 130,000 square feet, stocks 40,000 to 50,000 different products. Stores are located in 48 states in the United States, seven Canadian provinces, Chile, Puerto Rico, and Argentina. Home Depot also owns 30 EXPO Design Centers, with high quality products and custom showrooms, found throughout the United States.

Personal Life

Blank is married and has four children. With three children from a previous marriage, he lives with wife, Stephanie, and son, Joshua, in Atlanta, Georgia. The couple were also expecting twins in the summer of 2001. An avid runner, he logs about 20 miles a week and has run in several marathons, including the New York marathon. He also regularly participates in the six–mile Peachtree Road Race held each July in Atlanta, Georgia. He has been described as the quieter partner to Marcus' showman–like personality.

He serves on the board of trustees of the Carter Center, Emory University, the National Conference of Christians and Jews, the Georgia Council of the Arts, and the North Carolina Outward Bound School, among others. He is chairman–elect of the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. Blank is a member of Babson College's Entrepreneurship Advisory Board and Academy of Distinguished Entrepreneurs. He established the Home Depot Entrepreneurial Scholarship program for undergraduates, as well as the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation. Blank was inducted into the Babson College Academy of Distinguished Entrepreneurs and has received several awards, including the Brotherhood/Sisterhood Award (1994) from the National Conference of Christians and Jews, the Selig Distinguished Service Award (1996) from the American Jewish Committee, an honorary doctor of law degree from Babson College (1998), named Georgia Trend's Most Respected CEO for the year 2000 and ranked eighth on Worth magazine's list of the 50 Best; co–author of the book, Built from Scratch: How a Couple of Regular Guys Grew the Home Depot from Nothing to $30 Billion, which is about the founding of Home Depot.

He was born September 27, 1942, in Queens, New York. The family—including Blank, his parents, and his brother—lived in a series of one–bedroom apartments in Sunnyside, then Flushing, New York. In high school, Blank played football and baseball and ran on the track team. His father, a talented runner, quit running after college and died of a heart attack when Blank was 15. When Blank ran the New York Marathon in 1986, he honored his father and recognized their mutual love of running by wearing a shirt that said "For Pop."

In 1963 he received a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration from Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts. He worked as an accountant and later joined a small pharmaceutical company that his father, a pharmacist, had started. The company was bought by Daylin, Inc., so Blank took an executive position at one of Daylin's drugstores. Daylin also owned Handy Dan Home Improvement Centers, where Blank then took a position and where he met future partner, Bernard Marcus. Blank worked his way up from corporate controller to vice president of finance, and Marcus served as Handy Dan's CFO. Blank and Marcus were later fired from Handy Dan by a corporate raider in 1978. Both were completely distraught. Blank considered suing the company for wrongful termination but was advised by a friend to forget it and get on with his life.

Career Details

Blank and Marcus did get on with their lives and with a little money set out to open their own chain of home improvement centers. The two founders met over coffee to develop their plans. As the two fielded offers for seed money to open the stores, instinct played a big part in whether or not they accepted the money. One early prospective investor was billionaire Ross Perot, who offered $25 million for a controlling stake in the company but insisted the employees drive only Chevrolets. Blank and Marcus turned him down.

They gathered enough money to open the first three stores in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1979 under the name the Home Depot. The first few stores were attached to Treasure Island stores and stocked around 25,000 products. Blank and Marcus relate in their book, that the managers of the first stores, in preparation for the grand opening, got the store all tidied up, not realizing the partners wanted it to look like a warehouse. "We wanted sawdust. We wanted skid marks on the floor," they recalled. After a night appropriately "dressing down" the place, the Home Depot was ready to open. The company had 200 employees and $7 million in sales but sustained a loss of nearly $1 million that year. By 1980, however, the stores were turning a profit and the company went public the next year. The initial public offering (IPO) raised more than $4 million dollars for the company. The company cartoon mascot, Homer D. Poe, appeared in the company's advertising for the first time in 1981, and their first Florida store opened. At the end of 1981, the company had grown to eight stores, 700 employees, and sales of $51 million. They were also named by Management Horizons as High Growth Retailer.

The company opened its first stores in Arizona and Louisiana in 1983 and computerized checkout systems were then installed. The next year, Home Depot's stock was listed on the New York Stock Exchange. That year, the company acquired Bowater Home Centers, with stores in Dallas, Shreveport, Baton Rouge, and Mobile. The company made its expansion into California in 1985, establishing a West Coast division. By then, Home Depot was comprised of 50 stores and 5,400 associates and was selling $700 million in products. Sales topped $1 billion in 1986 as the company opened its first supersized store of 140,000 square feet. Two years later, the company began building stores in the Northeast and continued to receive honors, including Retailer of the Year from Management Horizons. In 1989 the company opened its Northeast Division and also began its community service programs for affordable housing and at–risk youth and built their first Habitat for Humanity homes in Atlanta, Dallas, Tampa, and Miami.

Chronology: Arthur M. Blank

1942: Born.

1979: Opened first Home Depot stores.

1981: Home Depot went public.

1986: Sales topped $1 billion; first super–sized store of 140,000 square feet opened.

1991: Opened first EXPO Design Center.

1996: Home Depot celebrated 40 quarters, or ten years, of consecutive record financial results.

1999: First Villager's Hardware opened.

1997: Named CEO.

2000: Stepped down as CEO.

2001: Stepped down as co–chairman.

The 1990s were a time of continuing growth for Home Depot. The first EXPO Design Center was opened in 1991 in San Diego, California. The stores featured upscale home appliances and other products shown in their custom showrooms. The year 1993 saw Home Depot stores open in the Pacific Northwest. The next year, its Midwest Division was established after expanding into the Detroit and Chicago markets. The company had by then made considerable charitable contributions, including raising $7 million for City of Hope Medical Research Center and sponsoring the 1996 Paralympic Games. Fortune magazine named Home Depot the Most Admired Specialty Retailer in 1994 and again in 1995, which by then had 423 stores and sales of $15.5 billion. With charitable contributions of more than $8 million, the company began collecting several awards for its social consciousness, including the President's National Community Service Award, and the Robinson Humphrey Alexander Award for Corporate Citizenship, both in 1995. The company celebrated 40 quarters, or ten years, of consecutive record financial results in 1996. It had over 500 stores that year, nearly 100,000 employees, and $19.5 billion in sales.

Although Blank ran the company for years as president and chief operating officer with Marcus, Marcus had served as the company's CEO since its inception. Blank was officially elected to the position of CEO and president in 1997 after Marcus stepped into the chairman role. The growth continued with the launch of Load 'N Go, the company's truck rental service, and the purchase of National Blinds & Wallpaper Factory, a telephone mail order company. Home Depot announced a new convenience store format called Villager's Hardware in 1999. Blank told Your Company the new stores were designed for those who just want to "park their car right in front, go in, buy a can of paint or a hammer, walk out and be done." That year, they partnered with Emerson Electric to create an exclusive line of tools. They also announced a partnership with NASCAR's Joe Gibbs Racing.

In 1998, Home Depot branched out, opening stores in Puerto Rico and Chile. The company opened its first store in Argentina in August 2000, furthering the company's goal of operating more that 2,300 stores by the end of 2004. Blank and Marcus' book was published in 1999, the same year the store launched its internal Home Depot University and launched the new customer–driven website. Home Depot stock also was added to the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Blank's foundation, the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, and Home Depot contributed $1 million to Zoo Atlanta for a home for Chinese pandas Lun Lun and Yang Yang. The Legend Museum also opened that year, which was dedicated to the history and values of the Home Depot and located at the Atlanta Store Support Center. The museum is for the education and benefit of employees, their families, vendors, stockholders, and other interested parties. The company was named Fortune magazine's Most Admired Specialty Retailer for the sixth consecutive year in 1999.

In 2000, Blank announced he would step down as the company's CEO, making room for successor Robert L. Nardelli, the first person to run the company other than Blank and Marcus. The year Blank retired, Fortune named it the ninth Most Admired Company in America and again listed the company as the Most Admired Specialty Retailer for the ninth year in a row. The company expanded its international reach, opening stores in Argentina and Quebec. The first e–commerce online store was offered to customers in Las Vegas, and the Home Depot Floor Store was launched in Plano, Texas. The company continued to expand its online ordering service, with customers able to order about 20,000 of the company's roughly 50,000 in–store items online as of early 2001 and grew to nearly 100,000 items by late 2001.

In February 2001, Blank announced he would step down as co–chairman of the company, effective May 30, 2001. His plans included focusing on the work of the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation and becoming more active in nonprofit and business communities in his hometown of Atlanta. He also wanted to spend more time with his family. Blank left Home Depot with 34.8 million shares in the company—its seventh largest individual stockholder. Marcus also decided to step down as chairman by the end of 2001.

Social and Economic Impact

Blank redefined retailing with the $46 billion home–improvement giant he founded. Not only did Home Depot become the leader in its field but it spawned retailers in a variety of other sectors to utilize a similar format that they perfected, consisting of a no–frills warehouse store filled with tens of thousands of products with low prices and highly trained employees. The company has been recognized eight years in a row by Fortune magazine as America's Most Admired Specialty Retailer and is instantly recognizable to customers familiar with the bright orange aprons of its employees. Additionally, the company is the second largest retailer in the country, behind Wal–Mart.

The company, which had a philanthropic budget of more than $25 million in 2000, gives back to the community with donations to at–risk youths and the environment and work aimed at providing affordable housing. The company's Team Depot, a volunteer program organized in 1992, encourages employees to contribute to local causes. Home Depot has been the recipient of numerous philanthropic awards over the years. In addition to making philanthropy part of Home Depot's corporate culture, his own Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation has also provided millions of dollars to a variety of causes over the years. Blank has planned to donate 75 percent of his wealth to the foundation after his death.

Sources of Information

Contact at: The Home Depot, Inc.
2455 Paces Ferry Rd.
Atlanta, GA 30339–4024
Business Phone: (770)433–8211
URL: http://www.homedepot.com

Bibliography

"About Us." The Home Depot, Inc., November 2001. Available at http://www.homedepot.com.

"Arthur Blank." Chain Store Age Executive With Shopping Center Age, September 1997.

"Chairman of the Boards: Arthur Blank Corporate Executive." Runner's World, March 1995.

"Co–founder Trade Depot's Orange Apron for Family and Community." National Home Center News, 5 March 2001.

"Exit the Builder, Enter The Repairman." Fortune, 19 March 2001.

"The 50 Best CEOs." Worth, 1999–2001. Available at http://www.worth.com.

"The Handyman." Business Week, 10 January 2000. Available at http://www.businessweek.com.

"Home Depot Builds Up Its Web Presence." The Industry Standard, 26 April 2001. Available at http://www.thestandard.com.

"The Home Depot Builds Online Success with Broadvision One–to–One Enterprise 6.0–World's Largest Home Improvement Retailer Enhances Sites with Broadvision's J2ee–Enabled Applications." Business Wire, 20 August 2001.

"Home Depot Founder Blank Quits Board to Clear Path for Current CEO Nardelli." Wall Street Journal, 22 February 2001.

"Home Depot,"14 August 2001. Available at http://www.forbes.com.

"The Home Depot, Inc." Hoover's, November 2001. Available at http://www.hoovers.com.

"Home Depot Looks to Fill in Blank." Home Textiles Today, 26 February 2001.

"Home Depot: Now It Can Be Told." Your Company, 1 May 1999.

"Home Is Castle." Georgia Trend, May 2000.

"Stories of Entrepreneurs." National Commission on Entrepreneurship, 2001. Available at http://www.ncoe.org.

"There's No Place Like Home Depot." Nation's Business, February 1992.

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