Skip to main content

Home Depot annual meeting sets new tone, new direction


ATLANTA —The Home Depot had an uneventful annual meeting in Atlanta on May 24—at least compared to last year’s contentious event—that officially heralded in a new era under ceo Frank Blake.

“There’s no better way to deal with a mistake than to acknowledge it, fix it and move forward,” Blake said in opening the annual shareholder’s meeting in Atlanta last month. “We apologize for last year’s meeting and we promise it won’t happen again.”

Blake’s tone was well received by shareholders but he still had to field some tough questions during the question-and-answer period. While some shareholders complained about former ceo Bob Nardelli and his performance in 2006, several others told Blake that Home Depot needed to improve the hiring and training of its employees.

“It used to be that when I walked into Home Depot the associates were excited about their jobs,” said Robert Addison. “Now, when you walk into a store, you have to look for an associate.” Another shareholder told Blake that the company needed to “spend a little more time and a little more effort recruiting your associates.”

Blake, who took over as ceo in January, said one of the top five priorities for 2007 is to hire associates that are “more available, helpful and knowledgeable” and to improve the overall experience for shoppers at Home Depot.

For the year ahead, Blake said the company expects sales to be flat or up 2% at best, and that earnings are projected to decline 9% as Home Depot deals with “continued deceleration in the home improvement and housing markets.” He also said the company is conducting a review of its HD Supply business and said that, “one alternative we’re considering is a sale.”

Home Depot shareholders also elected all board nominees to one-year terms at the meeting but rejected several corporate government initiatives, including one that would have made the roles of chief executive and board chairman separate.

Blake managed to placate shareholders still angry over the 2006 annual meeting held in Wilmington, Del. The meeting was memorable for the complete absence of Home Depot’s board of directors, who left embattled ceo Nardelli on his own. Nardelli went on to alienate unhappy shareholders by cutting their comments short and ended the meeting after just 37 minutes.

One shareholder told Blake he was happy with the open tone he set. “Last year, I had to submit my question for approval before I could ask it.”

The week before the annual meeting, Home Depot announced the departure of senior vp of growth initiatives Jim Stoddart, who was hired by Nardelli in 2002. Stoddart headed new projects including its stand-alone nursery business Landscape Supply and its gas station-convenience store combination Home Depot Fuel launched in 2006.

For its first quarter, Home Depot reported $1.05 billion in earnings, down from $1.48 billion a year ago, and said that same-store sales fell 7.6%. The company cited a slumping housing market and bad weather for the declines.

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds