Ken Langone on Home Depot’s IPO

Yesterday I shared a key concept I took away from reading Home Depot cofounder Ken Langone’s book I Love Capitalism!: An American Story. Today I read a section where Langone shared the details of how he orchestrated Home Depot’s successful IPO in 1981. It was a tough environment in which to raise money from public-market investors. The economy was in a recession, inflation was through the roof, and interest rates were surging. But Home Depot was just a start-up and needed cash.

One week before the IPO date, bankers said they could fill only $3 million of the target $6 million the company needed to raise. Langone got to work and figured out a way to craft a creative deal and sell it to the existing investors (who ended up not being able to sell shares in the IPO). Everyone agreed to the new terms, and the company raised the $6 million it badly needed.

Langone’s reflection on this difficult situation stuck with me:

If there’s anything I would take a bow for throughout this whole process, it would be this: never giving up, and thinking creatively, instead of reactively, when the chips are down . . . . You get to enjoy lemonade instead of the lemons God gives you . . . .

Langone was in a tough spot. Home Depot cofounders, employees, and existing investors were all counting on him to remove the IPO roadblocks before the deadline. He was in a high-pressure situation, and he kept pushing. He focused on figuring out how to accomplish the goal given the hand they’d been dealt. His solution was unorthodox but ended up working. Absent Langone’s persistence and resourcefulness, Home Depot might not have gone public in 1981 or, worse, survived.