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ATL Business Chronicle

Column: Arthur Blank wins 2010 Four Pillar Award

By Maria Saporta
Friday, May 28, 2010

The Four Pillar Award — one of the most prestigious recognitions given annually in metro Atlanta — will be given this year to multifaceted business leader Arthur Blank.

The Council for Quality Growth, on the evening of Oct. 14, will honor Blank primarily because of his philanthropic endeavors and his dedication to improving communities, according to Michael Paris, the council’s president and CEO. The annual tribute will be held at the Georgia World Congress Center.

Blank is a co-founder of The Home Depot Inc. After leaving the company, he bought the Atlanta Falcons. He also established the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, which has given away a total of $250 million in grants supporting early-childhood development, education, the arts, parks and green space.

“It is a great honor for me,” Blank said about being honored with the Four Pillar Award. “There’s a long list of wonderful people who have been honored by this organization.”

Previous honorees of the Four Pillar Award include former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, developer Tom Cousins, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson and residential developer John Wieland.

The Council for Quality Growth, founded in 1985, promotes balanced and responsible growth.

Blank said he was especially proud of the receiving the award because the four pillars stand for “quality, responsibility, vision and integrity.”

In 2007, Blank was one of the key speakers who honored developer John Williams, when he received the award that year. “What enthused me about the award when John was honored is its focus on quality growth,” Blank said. “That has been an important part of our philosophy at Home Depot. Be sensitive to the environment and the communities where we are building. That message is more important today than it ever was.”

Honorary chair and emcee of the event is Johnetta Cole, director of the National Museum of African Art at The Smithsonian Institute. Co-chairs are Frank Blake of The Home Depot Inc.; Terry McGuirk of the Atlanta Braves and Turner Broadcasting System Inc., and John Williams.
Upbeat at Invesco

Atlanta-based Invesco Ltd. is looking forward to the upcoming close of its acquisition of Morgan Stanley’s retail asset management business, scheduled to occur on June 1.

At the company’s annual meeting at its headquarters on May 18, CEO Martin Flanagan gave an upbeat report largely because of the Morgan Stanley acquisition.

The $1.5 billion transaction in cash and stock will add $123 billion in assets under management in addition to the company’s current $457 billion in assets under management. The acquisition also will add another 620 employees to bring Invesco’s total workforce to 5,522.

“It creates a very, very strong leadership presence for the firm in total, but specifically in the United States and Japan,” Flanagan said.

Invesco’s founder Charles Brady, who no longer sits on the board, sat on the back row during the annual meeting taking it all in.

“I think the company is doing extremely well under what [are] clearly difficult circumstances for everybody,” Brady said. “You can only grow so fast in a down economy.”
The new Atlanta Life

The Atlanta Life Financial Group may be 105 years old, but it has become a whole new company in the past 10 years.

Atlanta Life CEO William Clement recalled the company’s origins as one that sold burial insurance in the African-American community.

“Ten years ago, Atlanta Life had one product,” Clement said of the burial policies that the company’s agents sold door-to-door.

Now Clement calls the company the “new Atlanta Life” because it now offers a range of financial services and insurance (but it has sold the burial insurance business).

Atlanta Life’s is now the largest African-American firm in terms of group reinsurance in the country, Clement said. It also provides a variety of property and casualty insurance.

Atlanta Life now owns Jackson Securities. It also has an institutional investment management firm now known as Herndon Capital Management. Herndon is now a sub-adviser for the Aston/Herndon Large Cap Value Fund.

Clement said 2009 was a tough year. “It does appear as though perhaps the worst is behind us,” Clement said. “We are guardedly optimistic.”

Atlanta Life still has strong ties to its founder — Alonzo Herndon. The Herndon Foundation is a majority shareholder of the firm, owning about 70 percent of the company.
Belk helps schools

The Belk Foundation is awarding a total of $150,000 in grants to five organizations in Atlanta as part of its new focus on education.

The foundation has awarded a $25,000 grant to Communities in Schools of Atlanta. It also has approved a $30,000 grant to the Drew Charter School; $25,000 to the Atlanta Education Fund; $50,000 (to be paid over two years) to KIPP Metro Atlanta; and $20,000 to the Posse Foundation Atlanta.
Women achievers saluted

Justice was the theme at this year’s Salute to Women Achievement put on by the YWCA of Greater Atlanta. And the good news for the organization that serves girls and women is that the luncheon raised about $400,000 and drew about 750 people.

It was the 27th annual Salute to Women Achievement, adding 10 new women into the Academy. Nancy Grace, who has a show on HLN, was named the 2010 Woman of Achievement.

Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.


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