Office Depot Taps Austrian As CEO


Boca Raton, Fla. - Office Depot has appointed Neil Austrian chairman/CEO after serving in those roles on an interim basis since November.

He formally succeeds former chief executive Steve Odland, who left the company in a surprise resignation last fall after five years at the helm.

Austrian had also served as interim chairman/CEO from Oct. 2004 through March 2005.

"While we met many qualified candidates who were excited about the opportunity, we kept coming back to Neil," said director Marty Evans, who led the company's CEO search committee. "His ability to focus on key initiatives, to energize associates and to drive performance led the board to re-think the decision to introduce a new leader at this time. 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."

An Office Depot director since 1998, Austrian was also president/COO of the National Football League, chairman/CEO of Showtime/The Movie Channel, chief executive of the advertising firm Doyle, Dane, Bernbach, and is currently on the board of director of DirecTV.

"I am both flattered and humbled by the strong confidence expressed in me by the board of directors," Austrian said in a statement. "In the last seven months I have witnessed a renewed energy and excitement at all levels within the company, and I am confident that we have begun the process of returning to the profitability of prior years."

Austrian said he has focused the No. 2 office supply chain on several key initiatives which will begin paying off over the next three years.

Austrian has also "increased the talent level of the management team and taken the steps necessary to grow sales, leverage assets, and build brands," Evans added.

The company reported a net loss of $15 million for its fiscal first quarter ended March 26, while sales at its North American retail unit declined 2 percent to $1.3 billion and same-store sales were down by 1 percent.


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