Nolan D. Archibald didn't make the final cut when he tried out for a spot with the Chicago Bulls back in 1968 - Michael Jordan was then 5 years old and couldn't have gotten above the rim without a ladder.
On the other hand, Archibald did get an offer from the Pittsburgh Pippers of the old American Basketball Association, the league of the Utah Stars.But being a Pipper didn't sound as much fun as being a Bull, and Archibald decided to take his bachelor's degree from Weber State College - where he had earned All-American hoop honors under Coach Dick Motta (Archibald played his first two years at Dixie State College) - and his MBA from Harvard and get a "real" job.
It turned out to be a wise decision. The Ogden native would have had to hang up his high-tops years ago if he had made the NBA, and all his best days would now be behind him.
Instead, as chairman, president and chief executive officer of The Black & Decker Corp., a $4.6 billion (1991 sales) worldwide conglomerate, the 48-year-old Archibald is the youngest CEO of a top Fortune 500 company (ranked 104th) with his best years still ahead.
Archibald was in Salt Lake City Tuesday for the Business for Business Roundtable & Business and Sports Gala held by the Richard Eyre for Governor campaign. Archibald is among a dozen Utahns and former Utahns named this month to Republican candidate Eyre's "National Economic Development Advisory Board." He spoke with the Deseret News following the noon roundtable.
Since leaving Utah, Archibald and his wife, the former Margaret Hafen, have lived in eight different cities and have had a child in each location (seven sons, one daughter.) Now residing in Potomac, Md., (B&D is based in Towson, Md.) Archibald said Margaret has laid down the law: "No more moves; eight is enough!"
Archibald's first job was with a division of Conroy Inc., a company based in Montreal, Can., which owned Glastron boats and O'Sullivan furniture, among other subsidiaries. From there he joined giant Beatrice Foods where he eventually became chief operating officer of its non-food companies, Samsonite Luggage, Culligan Water Treatment and 30 other companies.
In September, 1985, he was tapped by then-struggling Black & Decker to become president and chief operating officer. A year later he had added the CEO
and chairman titles to his job description and would soon be named by Fortune as one of the nation's "Ten Most Wanted Managers" and by Business Week as one of the best managers of 1987.
Despite recent news stories criticizing "overpaid" corporate executives, Archibald points out that there is no job security for CEOs unless they produce results - Black & Decker's board had fired two of his predecessors the year before he was hired.
But Archibald's job seems safe for now. When he took over in '85, B&D had lost money for the five previous years. In 1987-88, the company enjoyed record sales and earned $100 million. Archibald credits the weeding out of a number of B&D subsidiaries that didn't fit and acquisition of one that did: Emhart Corp., maker of Quik-Set Locks, Price-Fister plumbing components and 30 other subsidiaries that were a natural match to B&D's power tools. Over night, B&D doubled its sales.
Stockholders can't feel too badly, either. After taking an initial plunge from $16 to $8 per share in the year following Archibald's takeover, B&D's stock has since tripled to a recent range of $24.
Under Archibald's stewardship, Black & Decker has become No. 1 in power tools and accessories, small appliances, locks and locksets, among others, and emerged from a recent survey as the seventh most powerful brand name in the United States, beating General Electric, Kraft and even McDonald's.
The only major marketing goal left is to beat out Japanese power tool maker Makita for first place in the building/construction segment, something Archibald believes will be accomplished via B&D's purchase and market repositioning of the Dewalt brand.
Archibald agrees with his auto industry counterparts that as long as Japan protects its markets against U.S. competitors, this country should do the same. "I believe in free trade, but Japan clearly doesn't," he said. "The U.S. ought to penalize them until we have the same access to their markets as they do to ours."
On the presidential election, Archibald is disappointed with what President Bush has not done for business in his first term but concedes he sees no alternative to "four more years."
"Bush's greatest strength is who he's going to run against," said Archibald.
Commenting on the recession, he said it has badly hurt Black & Decker, halving its recent earnings. Asked if he thought the worst was past, he replied, "If the recession is over, it is imperceptible from where I sit."