Today’s Atlanta papers were packed with stories about just-departed Home Depot Chairman Bob Nardelli. Two things that come through, if you read between the lines, are that he didn’t go out of his way to either be nice to people or to fit into the Atlanta business community.
Not that this or his surprise departure yesterday hurt him particularly. After all, he’s walking away with a $210-million farewell gift.
But besides the fact that Home Depot stock took a nose dive under Nardelli’s leadership, there seems to be a message in all the news surrounding his exit about how not to run a company.
First, my between-the-lines impressions: Home Depot founder Bernie Marcus told the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution the following about his relationship with Nardilli: “We weren’t friends. We weren’t best friends. I would speak to him if I saw something wrong. He was very nice to talk to. We weren’t very close at all.” Hmmmm.
Co-founder Arthur Blank said the following about his relationship with Nardelli: “I didn’t have a relationship with Bob. . . .I have not had a working or personal relationship with Bob Nardelli. I do wish him the best of luck.” Hmmmm.
Journalist Maria Saporta wrote about Nardelli’s non-relationship with the Atlanta business community. "During his six-year tenure at Home Depot, Bob Nardelli never really jelled with the Atlanta community. Nardelli barely got involved in civic initiatives, and he did not have many strong relationships with local business, political and community leaders.” Etcetera.
By contrast, Arthur Blank told the newspaper that he received a phone call from Home Depot’s new CEO immediately after the news broke that Nardelli was out and Frank Blake was in. “He wants to have lunch in the next two weeks. I thanked Frank very much for that. . . .He made a real effort to reach out to me.” (For the record, Blank said he never had lunch with Nardelli.)
And in Saporta’s column, an Atlanta civic and business leader said that Blake — the new guy — has an interest in the community and wants Home Depot to be involved.
Perhaps the most succinct view of the Nardelli departure came from a reader of this blog who posted the following comment after yesterday’s missive about the situation at Home Depot: “Right on, Sister. You failed to mention that Nardelli is reputed to be a world-class [jerk].” The reader used a stronger word to describe Nardelli, but this being a family blog, I’ll let you fill in the blank.
Other than it’s sinking stock price, Home Depot didn’t perform too badly under Nardelli, but then if he had been doing a great job, he wouldn’t be packing boxes today. I think there are two takeaway points for retailers, no matter their size: One, be nice. Two, be a part of your community. What goes around does indeed come around. Call it simple karma.