Perhaps best known as co-founder of The Home Depot, Arthur Blank is now widely recognized for his diverse businesses. Distinguished by Forbes as one of the World's 100 Greatest Living Business Minds 2017 and Sports Business Journal's one of the 50 Most Influential People in Sports 2016, Blank's Family of Businesses portfolio currently includes the Atlanta Falcons; Atlanta United; PGA TOUR Superstore; The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation; Mountain Sky Guest Ranch; West Creek Ranch; and AMB Group, the parent company of his for-profit businesses. Blank and the Falcons, in partnership with the city of Atlanta and the state of Georgia, are the private funders of Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The stadium is operated by the Atlanta Falcons Stadium Company, a newly-created company also owned by AMB Group, and will be home to the Falcons and Atlanta United.
Perhaps best known as a co-founder of The Home Depot, Arthur M. Blank is now widely recognized for his diverse businesses and philanthropy. Distinguished by Forbes as one of the World's 100 Greatest Living Business Minds 2017 and Sports Business Journal's Sports Executive of the Year in 2018, Blank's Family of Businesses portfolio currently includes the Atlanta Falcons; reigning Major League Soccer champion, Atlanta United; PGA TOUR Superstore; The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation; Mountain Sky Guest Ranch; West Creek Ranch; and AMB Group, the parent company of his for-profit businesses. Blank and the Falcons, in partnership with the city of Atlanta and the state of Georgia, are the private funders of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, named the 2019 Sports Business Journal Sports Facility of the Year. The stadium is operated by the Atlanta Falcons Stadium Company, a company also owned by AMB Group and is home to the Falcons and Atlanta United.
The 2019 season will mark the 18th for Blank as Owner & Chairman of the Falcons. In his tenure as steward of the NFL and MLS franchises in Atlanta, Blank has established himself as a respected leader and model owner whose vision and accomplishments in building two winners have been profiled across the globe.
The determination of Blank to build a consistent winner for Atlanta and provide the fan base with a team it can be proud of and call their own is unmatched in sports. Atlanta's impressive six-year run from 2008-2012 included two number one seeds in the NFC playoffs (2010, 2012), a team-record three consecutive playoffs berths (2010-12), four double-digit winning seasons (2008, 2010-12), two 13-win seasons (2010, 2012), two NFC South Division championships (2010, 2012) and an NFC Championship (2016). Eight of the club's 14 playoff appearances have come since Blank purchased the team. Blank's expectations are to surpass that run and bring a championship to the city and the franchise.
Blank has put several pieces into place for his franchises and business to continue to reach the pinnacle of success. With Blank's careful guidance and the continued success of the state-of-the-art, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the Blank Family of Businesses are poised to reach and stay on top of the business and sports world.
IT TAKES A TEAM
Since Blank acquired the Falcons in 2002, the team has made the playoffs eight times in 17 seasons and has achieved unprecedented success off the field as well. Three years before Blank purchased the Falcons, the club averaged about 37,000 season ticket holders per year. Since 2002, the Falcons have never sold fewer than 50,000 season tickets in any year. Additionally, during the same period, the club has sold out 126 of 128 regular season games, including closing out the Georgia Dome with a streak of eight consecutive sellout seasons.
"I have been blessed here with a great team of people," Blank said. "I have always believed in bringing the best people together, creating the right environment, giving them the resources they need, being a cheerleader for them and making sure the culture is set in place before getting out of the way and allowing them to do what they need to do."
Blank is also a key contributor to many of the NFL's major committees. He currently chairs the NFL Audit Committee and is a member of the league's Finance, Legislative, Workplace Diversity, and Social Justice committees.
The increasing relevance of the Falcons has provided numerous opportunities for the franchise and city of Atlanta to be showcased on nationally-televised games. The Falcons have two primetime games in 2019 and in one of those games, the Falcons will host the Thursday night game on Thanksgiving in Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the first time. The Falcons have gone 8-4 in primetime games since 2015. Additionally, MBS became the first stadium ever selected to serve as the stage for NBC's iconic introduction to the top-rated show on television, Sunday Night Football.
"Our exposure through prime-time games over the years speaks directly to the outstanding performances of our players and coaches," Blank said. "Make no mistake, however, that our larger goal remains to play under the worldwide spotlight of the Super Bowl. There are 31 other teams out there that want the Lombardi Trophy just as much as we do, so we have to be focused and diligent to remain a marquee team in this league."
In May 2014, Blank and the Falcons broke ground on Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which opened in 2017 and was named the Sports Business Journal Sports Facility of the Year in 2019. In addition to being the home for the Falcons, the stadium is also home to Atlanta United FC, the Major League Soccer team that was awarded to Blank in April 2014, began play in 2017 and captured the MLS Cup in only its second in 2018. The facility also hosts other premier sports and entertainment events throughout the year.
"Our goal all along has been for Mercedes-Benz Stadium to become a destination site for sports and entertainment guests from all over the world," Blank stated. "We not only want Mercedes-Benz Stadium to become a landmark for the city of Atlanta and the state of Georgia, we want it to be a game changer when it comes to stadium design and the guest experience inside the building where friends and families can come together and create special memories."
Mercedes-Benz Stadium and the city of Atlanta hosted Super Bowl LIII in February of 2019. This was the first time the city of Atlanta hosted a Super Bowl since 2000.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell praised the city of Atlanta for their effort in making sure everything went well during the week of the Super Bowl.
"The enthusiasm, the hospitality and the desire to make sure that they put Atlanta on the big stage in a way that will show incredibly well, Goodell said. "As it related to when we are going to come back, as you know they've become more competitive for cities to host the Super Bowl, which we think that is great."
On top of Super Bowl LIII, Mercedes-Benz Stadium has attracted several marquee events to the city of Atlanta, such as the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship, the 2020 NCAA Final Four and many other events, including the CFP National Semifinal of the College Football Playoff, Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Games, SEC Championship Game and the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl.
"The Super Bowl 19 years ago not only didn't have our stadium, but it didn't have the National Center for Human Rights Museum, didn't have the Aquarium, didn't have the College Football Hall of Fame, didn't have the Children's Museum, didn't have the World of Coke," Blank said. "Those all speak to what Atlanta has done to earn every national event we've had. So it's not just about the Super Bowl. It's about the college national championship game we had last year, Super Bowl this year, Final Four next year. That has nothing to do with me. It has to do with Atlanta, and it has to do with the commitments that many people have made to this city."
The Falcons officially opened Mercedes-Benz Stadium with a 34-23 win over the Green Bay Packers on NBC's Sunday Night Football in Week 2 of the 2017 season. The club would go on to post a 5-3 record at home in its first season at MBS, setting a franchise record for attendance with 554,119 fans passing through the building during its inaugural season.
Blank's imaginative approach to the stadium experience has truly created the finest sports and entertainment facility in the world. Using the core values his businesses are founded on as guiding principles, Blank listened to what fans desired most and responded with a fan first, world-class experience in the heart of downtown Atlanta.
In 2018, Sports Business Journal named the Mercedes-Benz Stadium Food & Beverage Experience the Sports Breakthrough of the Year. The innovative approach to pricing, quality, value, and selection helped move the Falcons from 18th in the league in 2016 to 1st in the NFL in 2017 for food and beverage. MBS also ranked 1st in Major League Soccer over the same period.
Although Blank's original vision to create a fan first pricing menu was originally seen as a crazy idea, the results have been tremendous and a game-changer in the sports and entertainment industry. In 2019, Blank and his staff continued to listen to fans feedback and cut the prices on stadium food down even further to become even more affordable.
"Arthur Blank repeatedly challenges us to find innovative ways to further improve operations across our businesses," said AMB Group CEO Steve Cannon. "As we've always said, it is incumbent on us to listen and respond to our fans and we've heard that value, quality, and speed of service are incredibly important; therefore, we've again made operational adjustments that address each of these areas."
The innovation continues in 2019 as Mercedes-Benz Stadium became the first NFL or MLS stadium to go cashless, speeding up transactions and shortening waits at concession stands and merchandise shops.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE & IMPROVING LIVES
Starting with The Home Depot and continuing with his current businesses – the Falcons, PGA TOUR Superstore, Mountain Sky Guest Ranch, West Creek Ranch, Atlanta United and The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation – Blank's business and personal values underscore the importance of giving back and becoming part of the community.
During his 23 years with The Home Depot, the company donated more than $113 million to communities, and Home Depot associates provided hundreds of thousands of hours of personal volunteer time.
Since its inception in 1995, The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation has granted more than $400 million to charitable organizations, with approximately two-thirds of the total focused on metro Atlanta, including the Historic Westside neighborhoods of Vine City, English Avenue, and Castleberry Hill.
In 2013, Blank publicly committed to making further significant investments in these communities by creating the Westside Neighborhood Prosperity Fund, which invests in catalytic projects that ignite positive change and improve the quality of life in the neighborhoods surrounding Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The foundation has pledged $30 million to contribute to large-scale transformational projects that result in lasting impact for community residents.
In 2014, Blank's foundation launched its first major project, Westside Works, a long-term neighborhood-based program focused on creating job training and employment opportunities for residents. Westside Works placed nearly 200 men and women in living wage jobs in construction, health care, culinary arts and auto technician sectors during its first 12 months of operation.
"We've been committed to the Westside neighborhoods for many years," Blank noted. "Building a new stadium is the relatively easy part of our overall project in that area; the larger challenge is in having a positive and meaningful impact on the surrounding communities in the process. My family, along with the Falcons, feels a sense of responsibility to be part of that positive change."
Community engagement is a priority for the Falcons, as well. The Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation invests in innovative approaches to increase time kids spend in physical activity and to give more children access to healthy foods. Since 2002, the foundation has awarded more than $20 million in grants to nonprofit organizations serving children across Georgia. In partnership with Good Sports, the foundation also has donated over $1,380,000 worth of sports equipment to 325 organizations across 110 counties in Georgia, expanding opportunities for 114,000 youth to be physically active.
As a leader in the Georgia Shape initiative, the youth foundation is helping Georgia's physical educators assess over 1 million students annually with the Cooper Institute's Fitnessgram assessment. We are working hard to close the physical fitness (aerobic capacity) gender gap across the state by identifying and creating innovative physical activity programming before, during and after school. To date, we have reached over 800,000 students and are looking forward to reaching many more in the 2019-20 school year.
In addition, Atlanta Falcons players, coaches, cheerleaders, associates and their spouses remain among the most active community citizens in the NFL, contributing an average of 3,000 hours of their collective time each season. Much of this time is spent participating in Atlanta Falcons community relations programs and initiatives that support a variety of issues and activities, including health and fitness, breast cancer awareness, combating hunger, the development of youth/prep football, Salute to Service and outreach in underserved communities.
With Blank part of a select group of owners that lead the NFL's Social Justice Initiative working group, the Atlanta Falcons have strived to be among the league's leaders in social justice action. Beginning in the spring of 2018, a player-led Social Justice Committee developed a plan for reform at the local level and took immediate action, creating a calendar of events that made an impact on the local community. The group identified three pillars for making a difference in the community: Criminal Justice Reform, Police/Community Relations and Education and Economic Advancement.
In addition to a number of events throughout the community the following year, the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation approved $500,000 for grants to match player contributions that support social justice work in 2019.
"It's important that everyone in our family of businesses understands our collective responsibility to contribute to the communities in which we all live and work," Blank stressed.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
A native of Sunnyside, N.Y., Blank attended Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, where he competed on the football, baseball and track teams. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in business administration with distinction from Babson College, where he was active in a variety of extracurricular activities. Blank co-founded The Home Depot in 1978 and retired from the company as co-chairman in 2001. At the time of his retirement, The Home Depot was a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average and one of Fortune Magazine's "Global Most Admired Companies." During Blank's last year as CEO of the company, The Home Depot ranked first in social responsibility in an annual survey conducted by Harris Interactive, Inc.
Blank is recognized throughout the country for his personal and professional achievements. In 2012, he received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Georgia. In 2011, he was the recipient of the Freeing Voices, Changing Lives Award from the American Institute for Stuttering, and in 2010, he was recognized by the Council for Quality Growth for his philanthropic endeavors as well as his significant contributions to economic development and quality of life. In 2006, he was named a Distinguished American by the Walter Camp Football Foundation, which annually recognizes an individual who has utilized his or her talents to attain great success in business, private life or public service.
Also, in 2006, Blank was inducted into the Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame and was awarded an honorary doctor of humanities degree from Furman University. In 2005, he was named National Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young. In 2003, for the second time in three years, Blank was named Georgia's Most Respected CEO by Georgia Trend Magazine, and in 2002, he was inducted into Georgia State University's Business Hall of Fame. The Georgia Army National Guard Infantry Regiment appointed Blank as an honorary commander in July 2016. Individuals are selected as honorary commanders because of their position or influence in the community, and their ability to foster awareness and public support for the military and its service members. In 2016, 2017 and 2018, the NFL's Salute to Service winners were all members of the Atlanta Falcons, reflective of the owner and team's commitment to giving back to America's armed forces and their families.
Blank serves on the board of trustees of The Carter Center, Inc., and The Cooper Institute.
Arthur is the father of six children and has six grandchildren. A strong believer in work-life balance, Blank makes time daily for physical activity and spending time with family.