While Office Depot is clearly a powerful organization today, the Company’s beginnings were quite modest. Office Depot was founded in 1986 and opened its first store in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. In late 1987, David I. Fuente assumed the post of Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the fledging company, and took Office Depot public in 1988. The Executive Team immediately began to execute an ambitious plan to expand the Company’s footprint in key U.S. markets. The results were dramatic: By the end of 1990 Office Depot had 173 stores in 27 states. That same year, Office Depot announced its merger with The Office Club, Inc., becoming the largest office products retailer in North America.
Domestic growth, however, was only one aspect of Office Depot’s expansion in the Company’s early years; the management team had its sights set on penetrating international markets as well. Early 1992 marked the Company’s acquisition of H.Q. Office International, Inc., which included the Great Canadian Office Supplies Warehouse chain in western Canada. Growing steadily, the Company also subsequently opened new retail stores in Israel and Colombia under international licensing agreements.
As Office Depot expanded geographically, the Company also began to extend beyond its traditional markets. In 1993, Office Depot entered the rapidly consolidating contract stationer business by acquiring two market leaders: Wilson Stationary & Printing Company and Eastman Office Products Corporation. The merger of six additional contract stationers followed these purchases during 1994. These moves positioned Office Depot to take advantage of industry trends that would come to play a central role in the Company’s success.
In the meantime, Office Depot continued its steady international growth. Between 1995 and 1998, the Company opened stores in Poland, Hungary and Thailand under international licensing agreements and in Mexico, France and Japan under joint venture agreements. Later, the Company acquired the interests of its joint venture partners in both France and Japan.
In 1998, Office Depot merged with Viking Office Products, a public company and the world’s leading direct mail marketer of office products. The addition of Viking to the Office Depot organization not only vastly expanded Office Depot’s international presence, but also made the Company the leading provider of office products and services in the world.
That same year, Office Depot began to leverage the Internet aggressively, launching the first of a number of new Web sites, www.officedepot.com. The award-winning site established Office Depot as the industry’s technology leader, expanded its domestic e-commerce capabilities, and ultimately extended the range of products and services the Company could offer its customers. The following year, the Company launched its first European e-commerce site, www.viking-direct.co.uk, in the U.K. By 2005, the Company had over 30 international Web sites. Worldwide e-commerce sales in 2004 totaled $3.1 billion.
As Office Depot grew larger and more complex, its management leadership needs changed. In 2000, David Fuente stepped aside, and Bruce Nelson was appointed Chief Executive Officer. The executive team’s charge was challenging: To guide Office Depot at an exciting and defining time in the Company’s evolution. The Company immediately undertook several new management initiatives geared to make Office Depot a more compelling place to work, shop and invest. With a careful focus on invigorating the Company’s U.S. retail operations, expanding its international business, growing its best-in-class e-commerce business, and building a world-class warehouse and distribution network, the executive team gradually took Office Depot to the next level.