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Since Charles Brown became the CFO of Office Depot Inc. two years ago, he was an executive on a mission. His goal: to eliminate the company’s half-billion dollars in debt and replenish its empty cash coffers. “When I came in with a new management team, the only cash was in daily operations,” he recalls. “We determined that having liquidity is the lifeblood of a company, and so we initiated a program called Improved Capital Discipline.” Under that program the company quickly moved into a positive cash position, and by the first quarter of this year, Office Depot, with sales of $13 billion, had $1 billion in cash on its balance sheet. Instead of worrying about making the payments on its debt, Brown can now worry about how best to use all that cash. “It’s a high-class problem to have,” he laughs.

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