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How JPMorgan Chase's Jamie Dimon came close to running Home Depot nearly 20 years ago

Áine Cain   

How JPMorgan Chase's Jamie Dimon came close to running Home Depot nearly 20 years ago
  • JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon came somewhat close to running Home Depot in the late '90s, according to the home-improvement retailer's founder Arthur Blank.
  • Blank wrote in his book "Good Company" that Dimon was his "first choice" to replace him at the company's helm.
  • The Home Depot founder wrote that Dimon thoroughly "understood the values" of the company and seemed "intrigued" by the opportunity.
  • Ultimately, Dimon told Blank he felt he could not just "walk away" from the world of finance.

In an alternate reality, Jamie Dimon would have traded his suits for a closet full of orange aprons in the late '90s, bolting from the world of finance to become the CEO of Home Depot.

Home Depot cofounder Arthur Blank wrote in his new book, "Good Company," about courting Dimon, now the CEO of JPMorgan Chase, during his search for a successor. At one point, he wrote that it looked like Dimon might indeed make the pivot from finance to retail.

Blank became CEO of Home Depot in 1997 after his cofounder Bernie Marcus stepped down from the role. In the decades since Home Depot's 1978 founding, Blank and Marcus had built the company into the largest home-improvement retailer. When he felt it was time to move on, Blank chaired the search committee and began looking for a successor.

"I wished there was someone internally we could promote, but in this respect the company was a victim of its own success: our best people had become so wealthy that they'd decided to retire!" Blank wrote.

After Blank's hopes of promoting a longtime Home Depot executive came to nothing, he settled on a new "first choice" candidate: Dimon. Between November 1998 and March 2000, the banking executive found himself effectively in between jobs. The gap in employment came about when Dimon's mentor Sandy Weill fired him from Citigroup.

Blank wrote that he clicked with Dimon. He said he found the banker to be both "passionate about our culture and values" and "intrigued" by the prospect of helming the retailer.

"He knew all the old Home Depot stories — including the one about the guy who returned a set of tires, an item we didn't sell in our stores, and received a cash refund, no questions asked," Blank wrote. "And he understood the values that informed them — the commitment to outstanding service."

For six months, it looked to Blank like Dimon might become his successor at the Atlanta-based home-improvement giant. Blank's cofounders, including Marcus and investor Ken Langone, also expressed support for Dimon. But it wasn't to be.

"I love everything that you've done," Dimon ultimately told Blank, according to "Good Company." "I couldn't feel better about it. But I've invested 15 years in finance. I can't just walk away."

Blank wrote that he still believed Dimon would have been "such a great leader for the Home Depot." Instead, Dimon took over Bank One in 2000. In 2004, JPMorgan Chase bought the bank, and Dimon helmed the newly merged company.

After Dimon declined the role, Blank began pushing for former Continental Airlines CEO Greg Brenneman, who now serves on Home Depot's board. Instead, Langone and the board selected the General Electric executive and Jack Welch protégé Bob Nardelli, and Blank wrote that he found himself pushed out of the company a few months later.


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