10 Things You Didn’t Know About Bernard Marcus

Welcome to today’s feature about one of the shining stars in American entrepreneurship – Bernard Marcus. The story of Bernard Marcus is nothing short of inspiring for many budding businessmen out there. Are you ready to explore depths beyond the known about this charismatic figure? Read along as we reveal ten things you probably didn’t know about the man behind the evergreen prosperity of The Home Depot, Bernard Marcus.

1. The Early Life Of Bernard Marcus

Bernard Marcus was born on May 12, 1929, in Newark, New Jersey. His parents were Russian immigrants who barely made the ends meet. Despite growing up in financial hardship, Marcus was determined to carve out a successful path for himself. This determination propelled him to achieve great heights and become one of the most successful businessmen in the world.

Marcus graduated from Rutgers University in 1951, majoring in pharmacy. It was evident early on that Bernard Marcus was not merely content with being a pharmacist but had broader visions and ambitions. His path through college laid a critical foundation for his future endeavors in the world of business.

2. Entrepreneurial Success Started Later in Life

The success of Bernard Marcus didn’t come overnight. For 24 years, Marcus was an employee at various companies before starting his own business. Working as CEO of Handy Dan Home Improvement, it was when he was fired from here that Marcus got the wakeup call to venture on his own.

At the age of 50, Marcus, along with Arthur Blank, co-founded The Home Depot. The duo had a revolutionary business model that turned the retail industry on its head. They reinvented the home improvement industry, paving the way for mega-sized warehouse style stores that we commonly see today.

3. The Home Depot was Almost a Flop

When The Home Depot was first launched, it was near a blockbuster failure. The first two stores they opened were enormous, around 60,000 sq.ft each, filled with stacks of home improvement materials. However, customers were used to smaller hardware stores, and the initial response to The Home Depot’s new concept was quite discouraging.

Yet, Marcus did not abandon ship in these stormy waters. Instead, he took this as an opportunity to innovate. Marcus started hosting workshops and demonstrations in his stores, educating customers on using various home improvement tools. This innovative marketing strategy paved the way for Home Depot’s transformation into a runaway success.

4. Philanthropic Efforts

The success of Bernard Marcus was not just confined to the business realm but extended to world-changing philanthropic contributions. Marcus pledged to give away at least half of his wealth in his lifetime. His philanthropic contributions span across a wide spectrum of causes including healthcare, education, veteran support, and community development.

One of his most notable contributions is the Georgia Aquarium, a non-profit organization to which he donated about $250 million. It is one of the largest aquariums in the Western Hemisphere, fostering education, conservation, and marine research.

5. Bernard Marcus and Autism Speaks

Bernard Marcus has a personal connection to the cause of autism. His grandson, William, was diagnosed with autism, which led Marcus and his wife, Billi, to actively support research and advocacy for autism. Through their family foundation, they have donated millions towards autism research, therapy, and advocacy programs.

They are staunch supporters of Autism Speaks, an organization dedicated to promoting solutions for the individuals with autism and their families. Marcus’ involvement with Autism Speaks has created a significant impact in advancing understanding and acceptance for people with autism.

6. Award-winning Entrepreneur

Bernard Marcus’ entrepreneurial genius and leadership skills have garnered recognition beyond measure. In 2006, Marcus was inducted into the Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame. He has also received the Horatio Alger Award, an honor extended to individuals who have overcome adversity to achieve great successes.

Moreover, Marcus has been awarded honorary degrees from multiple institutes in recognition of his entrepreneurial success and philanthropic work. This includes an honorary Doctorate of Business Administration from Kennesaw State University and an honorary degree from his alma mater, Rutgers University.

7. Advocate of Free Enterprise

Bernard Marcus is a strong advocate of free enterprise, believing that it is the key to economic growth and prosperity. He is the chairman of The Marcus Foundation and has funded the creation of the Marcus Prize, an award to honor high-profile business executives who promote free-market principles in their enterprises.

His commitment to preserving free enterprise extends to teaching the younger generations about its importance. Marcus has sponsored the creation of the Marcus Nanotechnology Building at Georgia Tech and supports job training programs for high school students to learn practical skills for entrepreneurship.

8. Passion for Maritime Art

Apart from entrepreneurship and philanthropy, Marcus has a deep-rooted love for maritime art. His personal collection is reported to have artworks of famous painters like James Buttersworth, Montague Dawson, and Antonio Jacobsen.

The Peabody Essex Museum in Massachusetts, one of the largest maritime art collections in the U.S., has hosted Marcus’ artwork collections several times, reaching thousands of nautical enthusiasts.

9. Marcus on Leadership

Marcus believes that employee engagement and responsive leadership are key reasons behind Home Depot’s meteoric rise. He adheres to the philosophy of giving employees a stake in the company’s success by offering stock options, fostering a sense of ownership and responsibility.

He also encourages communication and collaboration between leadership and frontline employees. His unwavering focus on creating an empowering work environment has undoubtedly etched his name among the top business leaders in the world.

10. Success and Wealth

Marcus’s entrepreneurial journey with Home Depot has accumulated him a staggering net worth. According to Forbes, as of 2021, Marcus’s net worth is around $8 billion, making him one of the richest people in the United States.

Despite his vast wealth, Marcus believes in giving back to the community and has donated over $1 billion to various causes through The Marcus Foundation. This balance between accumulating wealth and making generous contributions defines the successful journey of Bernard Marcus.


Through his incredible journey, Bernard Marcus has taught us that it’s never too late to start and succeed, and wealth serves a greater purpose when used to improve the lives of others. His impact transcends beyond his business empire, leaving a mark in the domains of philanthropy, education, and community development.

For more insights into Mr. Marcus’ journey, consider these useful links:

Bernard Marcus Profile on Forbes
Bernard Marcus on Britannica
Home Depot official Website