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Austrian given the reins at Office Depot

By Palm Beach

BOCA RATON — Neil Austrian’s second tour of duty as Office Depot’s interim chairman and CEO has landed him the gig permanently. The office supply retailer announced Austrian’s hiring on Monday.

Austrian has been running Office Depot since November, when Steve Odland resigned after the company ran afoul of the Securities and Exchange Commission over alleged disclosure rules.

“Our search for a new leader to guide Office Depot through these challenging economic times was very thorough,” board member Marty Evans said. “While we met many qualified candidates who were excited about the opportunity, we kept coming back to Neil. Over his seven months at the helm, Neil has had a profound effect on the Company, its culture, and its relationships with key stakeholders.

"The board firmly believes that Neil is the best person to lead Office Depot’s return to profitable growth and to attract and build talent for the future.”

The announcement came after the close of the stock market; during the trading day Office Depot shares fell 6 cents to $4.02 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Austrian has served as an Office Depot Director since 1998, when the company merged with Viking Office Products, where he had served as a board member since. His first tour as interim chairman and CEO came in October 2004 through early 2005, when Office Depot hired Odland.

Last October, Office Depot again turned to Austrian after paying  $1 million in fines to settle SEC allegations that it failed to properly disclose estimates of declining revenue back in 2007. Under direction from Odland, Office Depot told a select group of analysts that the slowing economy would cause the company to generate less profit than had been projected.
That alone did not violate securities law. What did was the company’s failure to disclose that same information to the public until six days later.

Odland resigned as a result.

“I am both flattered and humbled by the strong confidence expressed in me by the board of directors,” Austrian said in a statement. “Office Depot celebrates its 25th anniversary this year and I have committed to all of our 40,000 associates that we will work together to bring this company back to the heights we believe we deserve to be in. We have focused the company on a few key initiatives, some of which will begin paying off this year, while others will reap benefits in 2012 and 2013.”

Before joining Office Depot, Austrian was president and chief operating officer of the National Football League from April 1991 until December 1999. He was a Managing Director of Dillon Read & Co. from October 1987 until March 1991. Before Dillon Read, Austrian was Chairman & CEO of Showtime/The Movie Channel and he also served as CEO of the advertising firm Doyle, Dane, Bernbach. He is currently a director of DirecTV and is on the advisory board of MidOcean Partners.

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MAY 23, 2011 click to go home
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