Jirka called! On Tuesday, I told you about my unforgettable interview with Jirka Rysavy, the founder and former CEO of Corporate Express, the office-supply company that Staples (SPLS) is buying for some $4.7 billion. This is the guy who lived in a cabin in the woods above Boulder, Colo. "I still live in the same place," Rysavy told me when he phoned Friday afternoon. Now he's the CEO of a Nasdaq-traded company, but he still lives simply and yes, uses an outhouse. "I didn't want money to change me," he professed. He doesn't even own a BlackBerry.
Notoriously press-shy (until today, he hadn't talked to a reporter in years, he said), Rysavy mentioned that a few things have changed in the decade since I visited him. On his plot in the woods, he now has a greenhouse, where he grows veggies, and a one-acre garden, with berries and currents. He's still an avid athlete - trained for the '04 Olympics, at age 50, in the 110-meter hurdles (with his native Czech team). Now 54, he's training for international competition in the 400-meter hurdles.
You probably don't know Gaiam (GAIA), the media/retail outfit that Rysavy started after selling Corporate Express. It's an impressive operation. Gaiam controls a big share of wellness/fitness DVD sales—a growing market - and sells balance balls (those big, brightly colored balls that you see in your gym) in some 70,000 retail outlets. Riding the wellness wave, Rysavy has built Gaiam's stock-market value to $330 million. Not bad for a guy who lives without running water.
P.S. I mentioned to Rysavy that two CEOs I know are into meditation - which is core to Gaiam's business. One is Procter & Gamble (PG) chief A.G. Lafley. Another is Ron Sargent of Staples - the office-products retail giant that, coincidentally, is buying the business that made Rysavy his first millions. Do you know any other CEOs who practice meditation?
It looks like Staples' (SPLS) decision to buy Corporate Express for some $4.7 billion is a smart one. Wall Street has applauded this deal. Gary Balter, who follows hardline retailers for Credit Suisse, notes that with the acquisition, Staples will dwarf other office supply distributors. It'll have $27 billion in annual revenues vs. Office Depot's $16 billion.
Betcha don't know Corporate Express—beyond the label on the office-supply boxes in your hallway. MOREPatricia Sellers - Jun 17, 2008 4:18 PM ET
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