In business and politics, the question is often posed: Is it the times that make the man, or the man who makes the times? Very rarely is it the latter. The galaxies aligned when native New Yorker Arthur M. Blank settled here in 1978 to revolutionize the home improvement industry into The Home Depot’s warehouse concept and make “the times” much of what is good about modern Atlanta today.
What you may not know is that he graduated from Babson College and was an accountant, then a drug store chain president before the good fortune of being “fired” by a regional hardware chain. Talk about bouncing back!
From co-founding The Home Depot with Bernie Marcus, Blank has amassed a powerful lineup of business and philanthropic successes.
The Blank Family of Businesses portfolio currently includes the PGA TOUR Superstore; The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation; Mountain Sky Guest Ranch; West Creek Ranch; and AMB Group, the parent company of his for-profit businesses. Blank also serves on the board of trustees for Emory University and The Carter Center and is the director of several nonprofits.
But Blank is probably best known lately for his teams’ record-setting sports triumphs, which gained international attention and united the city in 2018. Blank owns the Atlanta Falcons football team and the Atlanta United soccer team.
Blank and the Falcons, in partnership with the city of Atlanta and the state of Georgia, are the funders of the $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium that opened in 2017 and is slated to host the 2019 Super Bowl.
In the past year, the Atlanta Jewish Times has written about Blank, his teams or the new stadium 11 times. Among the headlines was Atlanta United becoming the Major League Soccer champion Dec. 8, in only its second year of existence. It was a rare achievement for Atlanta, winning a professional sports championship. A record crowd of 73,019 filled the stadium.
A month earlier, the AJT reported how, in 2018 alone, more than 1 million soccer fans swarmed the stadium to attend Atlanta United FC games, making it the most valuable team in the MLS, worth $330 million, according to Forbes magazine. A record-breaking 70,526 fans watched the Audi MLS Cup on Nov. 12 in Atlanta. It was recorded as the largest crowd ever gathered for an MLS playoff game.
The Atlanta Falcons, too, became more valuable in 2018, according to Forbes’ rankings released Sept. 20. The team was the 13th most valuable franchise in the National Football League, an improvement from the previous two years. Its valuation was reported as $2.6 billion, a 5 percent increase over the previous year, according to the Forbes ranking.
The stadium’s first year “was a hit for the Falcons,” with local NFL revenue up 70 percent by Forbes’ count. The team also made news with its reduced-price concessions, cut 50 percent over the previous year, Forbes stated.
The publication also offered these statistics about the team: Blank paid $545 million for the team in 2002. It earned $451 million in revenue last season ($34 per fan) and had $113 million in operating income. It received $74 million in gate receipts.
Blank’s impact on tourism and the city go way beyond sporting events and structures. Giving back, the Blank Family Foundation along with the Atlanta Super Bowl Host Committee and NFL Foundation are funding a major capital improvement project for Atlanta. The $2 million investment and renovation of John F. Kennedy Park on the city’s Westside is part of the Legacy 53 initiative that broke ground in August and will be unveiled during Super Bowl week next month.
In the catbird seat, or suite, in this case, Blank is poised to enjoy the Super Bowl in a few short weeks looking out on his home turf.
For all the talents and contributions to Atlanta and the state, we at the AJT salute him as Jewish Atlanta’s 2018 Entrepreneur of the Year.
“Arthur Blank has raised the bar for sports and hospitality in Atlanta. From bringing home the MLS Cup to bringing the Super Bowl to Atlanta, Arthur deserves all the accolades possible,” said Atlanta Hawks CEO Steve Koonin.
Home Depot co-founder agrees. “Arthur was a true partner, and the success of Home Depot was due to the strength of our partnership. I am proud to witness his ongoing success, and he deserves to be recognized for his valuable contributions to our community,” said Bernie Marcus.
Even the name of Blank’s soccer team is an indication of his far-reaching influence. While looking back on Blank’s past year – from financial to infrastructure – the city that includes our Jewish community is poised for the ripple effect and continued prosperity expected from the Super Bowl and beyond. To see the banners and cheering crowds lining the downtown streets following Atlanta United’s recent MLS win is an indication that Blank has successfully unified the city with more than just team spirit.
Our exclusive interview with Blank reveals other little-knowns about the man behind the unifying force …
Jaffe: You have done so much for Atlanta, what do you want your main legacy to be?
Blank: Well, Atlanta has done so much for me and my family. I love this community and have tried to do my part to make it a better place to live and visit. I hope the work of our Foundation, especially on the Westside, inspires others to join the effort to improve lives in any way they can.
Jaffe: What tips on civility can you give to others?
Blank: The essence of community is that everyone matters; everyone has a place. If we could see every individual as a human being with the right to life, happiness and safety, our behaviors would reflect that, and civility would be something requiring no effort. It would just happen.
Jaffe: What is left to achieve on your bucket list?
Blank: Hoping for good physical and mental health with lots of quality time with my family and close friends.
Jaffe: What other organizations or companies do you most admire?
Blank: The Home Depot and Walmart, as well as all of our businesses, which are based on core values that stand the test of time and have leadership that believes in those values and demonstrates how important taking care of the customers and communities they serve is to business success.
Jaffe: Whom do you consider your greatest business mentor or role model?
Blank: I’ve said many times that Bernie Marcus, my partner in founding The Home Depot, was like a father figure to me personally; but he also was a great mentor and visionary from a business perspective. Everyone should have a mentor like him that they are able to not only cherish as a mentor, but as a dear friend, as I do with Bernie.
Jaffe: As a Jewish entrepreneur in 2018, what are you most thankful for?
Blank: I’m always thankful for the love and support of my family, and that has been very true this year. I’m also thankful to the leadership teams and associates in all of our businesses. We’ve had an incredible year across the board because of them and because of our fans, customers, guests and grantees.
- Marcia Caller Jaffe
- Arthur M. Blank
- The Home Depot
- Bernie Marcus
- The Blank Family of Businesses
- PGA TOUR Superstore
- The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation
- Mountain Sky Guest Ranch
- West Creek Ranch
- AMB Group
- Emory University
- The Carter Center
- Atlanta falcons
- Atlanta United
- Mercedes-Benz Stadium
- steve koonin
- Year in Review