Ken Langone embodies the American success story. Marked by his genuine nature and passionate spirit, Ken Langone’s reputation proceeds him as the financial backer and co-founder of Home Depot, the world’s largest and most popular home improvement retailer in the market with earnings of $5.8 billion reported in 2006. Ken Langone has been on Home Depot’s Board of Directors since 1998. He is also the former director of the New York Stock Exchange and an active philanthropist.
Ken Langone was born in Roslyn Heights, New York to working class parents in a close-knit Italian family. His father earned a living as a plumber and his mother worked in a cafeteria. Despite warnings from Ken Langone’s high school principal not to waste money sending Ken Langone to college, the Langones mortgaged their house so that their son could attend Bucknell University in Pennsylvania. To help pay for school, an ambitious Ken Langone worked as a ditch digger, caddy, and butcher’s assistant. He graduated from Bucknell in 3.5 years with a BA in Economics. After graduating, Ken Langone found work in the investment department of Equitable Life Assurance Company, where he worked full time while attending night classes four nights a week at the New York University School of Business. He obtained his MBA from NYU in 1960. Today, the New York University sponsors a night school program called the “Langone Program” in the Leonard Stern School of Business with curriculum that includes Ken Langone’s business model.
After completing his college education, Ken Langone joined the United States military and completed two years of service in the United States Army.
In 1961, Mr. Langone took an interest in Wall Street and became an associate at R.W. Pressprich “& Co. He rose quickly in the company and soon became Executive Vice President at Pressprich. Ken Langone’s career in business caught the attention of the public when he seized advantage of an opportunity to join up with Texas businessman Ross Perot and his start-up company, Electronic Data Systems. Ken Langone took EDS public in 1968 at an astonishing 118 times the earnings, or $16.50 a share. After this phenomenal success, Ken Langone continued his relationship with Ross Perot as the future presidential candidate’s advisor. Not much later, Ross Perot promoted Ken Langone to president and chief operating officer for the company. Ken Langone’s friendship with Ross Perot continues to this day.
In 1974, Ken Langone founded Invemed Associates, Inc. a small Park Avenue investment bank founded to finance start-ups in the medical field. Also in 1974, Ken Langone bought his first seat on the New York Stock Exchange for $60,000. He later sold his seat for $1.5 million, contributing to his reputation as a businessman who buys low and sells high. On this achievement, Ken Langone remarked “now I’m making 500 percent of my money.” A year later, Ken Langone made $5 million for a medical electronics company called Ivac, which he later took over and sold to Eli Lilly for stocks in 1977. This business deal resulted in Eli Lilly’s medical instruments division, which has grown into a multi-billion dollar division. Since then, Ken Langone has become one of Eli Lilly’s largest shareholders.
Not all of Ken Langone’s early business ventures resulted in financial success. From a deal he made with Stirling Homex Corp. Ken Langone learned the value of straight dealing and financial responsibility. The Stirling Brothers deceived Ken Langone about the numbers involved in a business transaction, and from this regrettable experience, Ken Langone took a more hands-on approach to future business, personally inspecting his investment ventures and particularly taking care to assess the integrity of the people involved as a measure of the integrity of the company.