Francis Stanton “Frank” Blake (born July 30, 1949) is an American businessman and lawyer, who was the chairman and CEO of The Home Depot from January 2007 to May 2014. Prior to this he worked for the U.S. Department of Energy and General Electric. He was a longtime protégé of Robert Nardelli
Education and family:
Blake attended Brooks School in North Andover, Massachusetts, class of 1967. He received his bachelor’s degree from Harvard University in 1971 and a Juris Doctor from Columbia Law School in 1976.
In 1977, Blake married Anne McChristian with whom he had two children. In 2005, he married Elizabeth Lanier (Blake) who works as general counsel for Habitat for Humanity International.
From 1971–1973 Blake was a legislative assistant to the joint committee on Social Welfare of the Massachusetts legislature. He was admitted to the District of Columbia bar in 1978. He served as a law clerk to Judge Wilfred Feinberg and then to Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. Blake also served as general counsel for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), deputy counsel to Vice President George H. W. Bush.
CEO of Home Depot:
After Nardelli resigned as Chairman and CEO on January 3, 2007, amid controversy over the company’s stagnating stock price, poor customer service and Nardelli’s salary, Blake was elevated to these positions. Although a longtime deputy to Nardelli at GE and Home Depot, Blake has been said to lack Nardelli’s hard edge and instead prefers to make decisions by consensus. Indeed, Blake repudiated many of his predecessor’s strategies, and it has been reported that the two men have not spoken since Nardelli departed Home Depot.
Nardelli had pushed hard to make the company more efficient, instituting many metrics and centralizing operations, while cutting jobs to meet quarterly earnings targets. While this initially doubled earnings and reduced expenses, it alienated many of the store managers and rank-and-file store associates, and by extension the customers, resulting in a drop in same-store sales which is a key metric that analysts used to gauge the company stock. Nardelli, who regarded home improvement store-by-store sales as less important due to market saturation from competition such as Lowe’s, aimed to dominate the wholesale housing-supply business though building up HD Supply, a unit that Blake sold for $8.5 billion in August 2007 since it was not part of Home Depot’s integrated business.
In comparison to Nardelli whose numbers-driven approach never appreciated the role of the store and its associates, Blake’s strategy has revolved around reinvigorating the stores and its service culture (engaging employees, making products readily available and exciting to customers, improving the store environment, and dominating the professional contracting business, an area in which Home Depot’s closest rivals trail far behind), as he recognized that employee morale is a more sensitive issue in retail compared to other industry sectors like manufacturing. Blake was given credit for returning to the “Orange Apron Cult — the nearly religious zeal for knowledgeable employees and high levels of customer service that was the secret of the company’s original success”, as he believed that customer service was the key to Home Depot to differentiate itself from competitors on aspects other than price.
Under Nardelli’s tenure, Home Depot’s stock performance lagged behind rival Lowe’s, however this situation has been reversed under Blake.
On August 21, 2014, The Home Depot announced that Craig Menear, President of U.S. Retail for The Home Depot, would take over as President and CEO on November 1, 2014. Menear has also been elected to the Board of Directors, effective immediately. Blake will remain Chairman.