Making It, Baking It, Taking It
Office Depot’s Elisa D. Garcia C. makes it
her business to know the business BY CARLOS HARRISON PHOTOGRAPHY BY SCOTT WISEMAN
Editor’s note: Elisa D. Garcia C., as per the
Spanish tradition, uses the second initial to
honor her maternal roots (Canedo).
OFFICE DEPOT’S ELISA D. GARCIA C.
has impersonated Elvis on a Las Vegas
stage, can prep a pepperoni pizza in 44
seconds flat, and started college wanting
to see dead people.
Not the background you normally find
on a general counsel providing legal
direction for a global corporation that
boasted about $11 billion in sales for 2012.
Did we mention she also happens to be
turning the traditional fee structure for
outsourced legal services on its head?
She’s both modest and confident about
the magnitude of the challenges, and
about the changes she has wrought. As
she discusses them, she barely contains
her intensity. Her hands flutter, her brown
eyes sparkle, they crinkle when she smiles.
She’s careful with her words and quick
with her laughter. And she seems never
to forget the lesson she learned in the job
just before this one: “We have to be able to
laugh at ourselves.”
Case in point: The Elvis act is memorialized
in a photograph on the wall of her office
overlooking a lush green golf course at Office
Depot’s headquarters in Boca Raton, Fla.
The photo, displayed four times in a colorful
quad imitation of Andy Warhol’s work, shows
her onstage in Vegas at a Domino’s Pizza
franchisees meeting. She wears a sequined
white jumpsuit, thick black sideburns and
hair styled in a ducktail. It represents more
than a memorable moment; it signifies a
“That was definitely outside her
comfort zone,” says former Domino’s
Pizza Inc. chairman and CEO David
Brandon. Garcia C. was the company’s
first general counsel. But Brandon
wanted more than an attorney, “more
than a one-ball juggler,” as he puts it.
“You want them to be able to go into
meetings and talk about legal issues
from the perspective of the operators,
and how does the business work and how
do we create success.”
It was a tectonic shift for the Brooklyn-
born Garcia C., but hardly her first. As the
daughter of a hardworking boiler-room
engineer who had to drop out of school to
help support his six siblings, she grew up
believing in the value of education, and set
a high bar for herself.
When it came time for college, she
says, “My father said I could go anywhere
I wanted, as long as I slept under his roof
She picked SUNY Stony Brook.
“I wanted to be a pathologist, a coroner,”
she says. “... I really loved the intrigue of what
disease or what knife was used or whatever. I
thought that would be fascinating. I love the
lab work more than the people work.”
Organic and inorganic chemistry
changed her mind. “I just wasn’t excelling
in the manner in which I was accustomed
Instead she went into a five-year
program to earn, simultaneously, her
bachelor’s in political science and master’s
degree in policy analysis and planning—
and wound up doing research on energy
policy in developing countries. When she
graduated, she went to work full time
for the Institute for Energy Research as a
developing country energy analyst.