Arthur Blank is probably most well known for being the owner of the National Football League's Atlanta Falcons. But how exactly did Blank come up with the money to buy an NFL franchise in the first place? Arthur Blank earned his $1.7 billion net worth as the co-founder of America's largest home improvement chain: Home Depot. But Arthur's life wasn't always filled with billion dollar fortunes and NFL franchises. In fact, during the very early days of Home Depot, Blank and his partner had to stand in the parking lot handing out $1 bills begging people to go into the store and have a look around. This is Arthur Blank's billion dollar success story…
Born to a Jewish family in Flushing, New York in 1942, Blank grew up with his father Max, mother Molly and older brother Michael. He attended Stuyvesant High School and Babson College – where he graduated in just three years with a BS in Business Administration and Accounting.
After college, Blank went to work as a senior accountant at Arthur Young and Company. He then moved on to the Daylin Corporation where he rose through the ranks to become President of Elliott's Drug Stores and Stripe Discount Stores. When Daylin decided to sell off those assets, Blank moved to another division of Daylin: Handy Dan Home Improvement Centers, a chain of hardware stores based in Los Angeles. After 15 years with Handy Dan, Blank was VP of Finance and his longtime co-worker Bernard Marcus was CEO. Both were fired in 1978 as a result of internal company politics.
After their Handy Dan firings, Blank and Marcus met with an investment banker in New York City to discuss a plan for a new home improvement store that they wanted to call The Home Depot. The first Home Depot opened in Atlanta in 1978. The duo incorporated some of the strategy that has made Price Club and Costco successful, a savvy move in the depressed economic climate of the late 1970s.
Home Depot revolutionized the home improvement industry with its warehouse sized stores. The sheer amount of square footage available allows Home Depot to stock a wide variety of options to accommodate a greater swath of home improvement and repair customers. Blank served as CFO for 19 years, during a time when Home Depot expanded rapidly nationwide. In 1997, Blank succeeded Marcus as CEO. Blank served as CEO until he retired in 2001.
Throughout his career, Blank was focused on building the business and making the Home Depot a success. Once he retired, he was like a sports loving kid in a candy store. In February 2002, he purchased the NFL's Atlanta Falcons from Taylor Smith, son of team founder Rankin Smith Sr. Blank owns 90% of the team alongside eight partners. Blank helped resurrect the excitement in the Georgia Dome with increased tailgating, parking, and entertainment. He also gave greater value to the fans with lower ticket prices. Every game during his inaugural 2002 season was sold out.
In 2004 he bought Arena Football League franchise Georgia Force and moved it to Atlanta from the suburban setting of Gwinnet County where it had been for several years. He has twice tried to buy the MLB's Atlanta Braves. Blank has stated that he is interested in buying more Atlanta sports franchises including an expansion franchise in Major League Soccer. Atlanta is currently being considered for MLS expansion.
Currently Blank, besides owning the Falcons, is the Chairman, President, and CEO of AMB Group, LLC as well as Chairman of The Arthur Blank Family Foundation. He is on the Board of Trustees of Emory University and on the boards of Staples and Cox Enterprises. Blank owns Mountain Sky Guest Ranch in Emigrant, Montana as well as the Atlanta Falcons Physical Therapy Centers.
Blank is well known for his philanthropic efforts. He is a member of the Giving Pledge – vowing to give away at least 50% of his wealth to charitable causes. In 2003, Blank was named Georgia's Most Respected CEO by Georgia Trend magazine for the second time in three years. He was named National Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young LLP in 2005. Blank was inducted into the Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame in 2006.