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Home Depot CFO Tome’s Turf Expands

Added duties reportedly could buttress her status as a potential successor to Robert Nardelli, the company’s chairman and CEO.
Stephen TaubOctober 13, 2006

CFO Carol Tome’s star seems to be on the ascent at The Home Depot. In the course of announcing sweeping changes in its retail organization, the home-improvement retailing giant said Thursday that besides her finance tasks, Tome’s portfolio will now contain store-operations support, including asset protection and customer service.

The added duties buttress her status as a potential successor to Robert Nardelli, Home Depot’s chairman and chief executive officer, according to The Financial Times, Tome, who has been with the company for 11 years, has served as executive vice president and finance chief since May 2001.

As part of the management revamp of the company, its four division presidents in the United States and Mexico will now report to Nardelli. The moves also include a number of changes in marketing and merchandising.

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For her part, Tome has enjoyed a high profile outside the company since joining Home Depot, participating in finance panel discussions and fielding tough questions from shareholders on Home Depot’s behalf.

At a Standard and Poor’s conference not too long ago, she addressed the growing conflict between bondholders and stockholders, calling the “balancing act” of managing the conflicts of interest between the two sets of investors “the biggest challenge we face going forward.”

And when Home Depot faced an onslaught of criticism from governance advocates and the media over its treatment of shareholders at its annual meeting in May, Tome took the heat and the calls from reporters.

Only 1 of Home Depot’s 11 directors — Nardelli, management’s sole board member — attended the session in Wilmington, Delaware, at which eight shareholder proposals were considered. Tome observed the proceeding from a seat next to the CEO. Just over a half-hour long, the meeting contained no management presentation on operations and sharply restricted shareholder comment before votes were taken to elect directors, ratify the auditor’s appointment, and consider the shareholder measures.

In a later interview with CFO.com, Tome asserted that “We tried a new approach, and clearly, based on the feedback we got from shareholders, they prefer our prior format.”

In 2007, shareholders will again hear a business presentation from management, get management’s answers to their questions, and have directors present, she added.

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