Arthur Blank's Check
How Arthur Blank, a kid from New York, wound up transforming the South—a few million in charitable donations (and one Super Bowl appearance) at a time.
One of the best things that ever happened to the South was the firing of Arthur M. Blank.
Had some nameless manager at the now-defunct Handy Dan’s home improvement store not chosen to cut loose both Blank and his partner Bernie Marcus in 1978, the pair of them may never have founded Home Depot. They may have never made their way from California to Atlanta, helping establish the city as the nexus of the New South’s financial resurgence. Blank never would have taken ownership of the Atlanta Falcons, guiding them all the way to the Super Bowl through his unorthodox, hands-on approach.
Most importantly, the vast fortune he’s given away through the Arthur M. Blank Foundation and the Giving Pledge would have no doubt wound up in stingier pockets than his own.
All of these achievements we can trace back to that firing, and some poor soul who now has to tell people he’s the guy that fired one of the South’s most dynamic millionaires. All we can tell that guy is to maybe keep that to himself if he’s ever in Atlanta.
“Atlanta has been a great place for our family and children to grow up. Atlanta is also a tremendous city to do business in,” said Blank. “I’ve seen the city experience a tremendous amount of growth and transformation during more than 40 years of living here and doing business here.”
"[SCAD] has a local campus and presence in Atlanta, and it is also an internationally recognized organization that has helped us attract a wonderful mix of local Georgia artists as well as top international names. "
For a guy born and raised in New York, Blank has taken to the South with nearly as much vigor as the South has taken to him. Within a few years of relocating the Home Depot’s headquarters to Atlanta, Blank had became a massive player in the business spheres of both the city and the region. The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation has provided enormous funding for infrastructure improvements and social programs within the greater Atlanta area, focusing on those neighborhoods most in need.
But to ask Blank, it’s the least he can do for a city that adopted him as one of its own. “I am grateful for all that Atlanta has given me.”
Of course, the biggest gift he has given to the city of Atlanta has probably been the miracle turnaround of the Atlanta Falcons that he spearheaded through his extraordinarily granular approach to ownership, an oddity in the era of absentee corporate sports owners.
A longtime season ticket holder for years, Blank had watched in anguish right alongside his fellow fans as the team floundered, never once mounting back-to-back winning seasons. “When the opportunity to purchase the Falcons presented itself I wasn’t actively looking to go into the sports business but I was passionate about the team and passionate about the city of Atlanta and wanted to see them succeed.”
This self-made man went about transforming the team, using the same techniques he’d used to build Home Depot, getting involved in nearly every aspect of the Falcons organization, from customer service to player management.
“I live my life and run all of our businesses with six core values,” he said. “I believe that if you live by these values and use them to guide your businesses, success will follow. That’s certainly been the case with the Falcons under my ownership.”
His exuberance for his team boils over, revealing what makes Blank unique as an owner in the National Football League. He’s a fan first, and an owner second. He’s every sports fans idle daydream made manifest—that rare armchair GM who gets a chance to actually call the shots and lead his team to greatness. For fan’s and for owners, there are few more dizzying heights than seeing your team head to the Super Bowl, as the Falcons did last year. Then again, there is no greater agony than seeing your team lose that Super Bowl, especially after going into the fourth quarter up 19.
To read more about Arthur, subscribe now or pick up the August/September issue of South magazine.