his office. Then about two years later, he
called me and asked if I’d be interested
in working for him. That was in 1985.
The other experience that influenced
me to gravitate toward turnaround
work was growing up on a farm in west
central Minnesota. During the farm
crisis in Minnesota in the '80s many
family farmers went out of business.
Extended family members of mine
went through bankruptcy and lost
everything. In one case it was a farm
that had been in the family for several
generations. Seeing the personal
anguish that people go through
firsthand was something that affected
me deeply, and I found that being
able to help people and businesses
in distress was very rewarding.
Q The mid ‘80s was early on. They probably didn’t even call it
turnaround work at that time.
BECKER No, I don’t think they did.
It was just called consulting. We were
working primarily with companies that
were in trouble, and we had just gotten a
reputation for that. There wasn’t a
Turnaround Management Association,
and there certainly wasn’t any kind of
organized effort of people, at least not
here in Minnesota, who were involved
Q You’ve been doing this work a long time. What have been some of
your most gratifying, favorite, or
important engagements along the way?
BECKER We were a court-appointed receiver in a Ponzi scheme in
which a number of investors lost
substantial amounts of money.
Being involved in that and getting
into the details—finding assets,
recovering them, converting them
to cash, figuring out who lost
money, and ultimately creating a
structure and a process around how
that was accomplished—was pretty
gratifying. We ultimately were able to
take what was a really bad situation
and achieve an outcome that was
remarkably good, returning substantial
amounts of the investors’ money.
We received a chapter Transaction
of the Year award for that project.
It was different from a typical
turnaround, in that we weren’t just
trying to fix a business and turn
it around. Here we had situations
involving individuals whose lives were
on the verge of being destroyed from
the loss of an investment, but we were
able to capture and recover a good
portion of what they had invested.
I was also fortunate to be on the
committee that crafted and rewrote
the Minnesota statute for receiverships
and assignments for the benefit of
creditors. It was a terrific experience
going through the drafting of the
law, particularly the care that we put
into considering all the ramifications
of the language and how the law
would work and trying to make sure
that it accomplished what it was
intended to do. We ultimately saw
the bill win bipartisan support in the
Minnesota legislature and be passed
into law. It was really gratifying.
We’ve had the opportunity to work
on a number of projects since then in
which we were appointed as receiver
under this statute, which now has been
in place for several years. We used it
about a year or so ago when we were
appointed as receiver for a large biomass
fuel power plant in western Minnesota.
The receivership statute and its
provisions worked well to achieve a sale
of the facility through the receivership
process, keeping it operating during
the process and after the sale.
Probably the most complex engagement
I’ve been involved in occurred in the
last seven or eight years. We were
retained by one of the country’s largest
real estate development companies
during the real estate market meltdown.
Capturing and preserving as much
value as possible were paramount.
It was complex because of the
reach of the organization across the
country and the multiple subsidiaries
and how they were structured.
Ultimately, we ended up with a very
favorable outcome for all parties.
Q I want to go back to the Ponzi scheme case for a minute. That
sounds fascinating. How large was
BECKER The total claims that were
filed at the time the case unraveled
amounted to about $50 million.
Q What did the scheme involve?
BECKER It was an individual who
claimed to be a print broker who was
seeking to finance his purchase orders.
He would present to his investors
substantial purchase orders, typically to
large Fortune 500 companies. Virtually
all of them were 100 percent fabricated.
Q How long had it been going on before it unraveled?
BECKER I think it had been going
on for about four years.
Q Did authorities bring criminal charges against the perpetrator?
BECKER They did, and he was
sentenced to eight years in prison in
Minnesota. After he had served a couple
years of his sentence, he was extradited
to California, where he was charged
separately. I think he just was sentenced
to 30-plus years in California.
Q Regarding the committee that addressed the receivership statute,
can you talk a little bit about how that
came about? What were the perceived
weaknesses in the existing statute?
BECKER My firm had been
involved in a number of receivership
cases in Minnesota. The statute on
receiverships was really minimal at the
time. We were finding from case to case
and across different venues that judges’
orders in terms of what sorts of power
and authority they granted us as a
receiver varied greatly.
With the committee, we were trying
to clarify those issues and create a
comprehensive statute that would put a
framework around this process. Since it
went into effect, we are seeing it being
used more and more in Minnesota.
Q You are a longtime member of TMA and were one of the original
members of the Minnesota Chapter.
What role has TMA played in your
career? When did you get involved
BECKER I was generally aware of
TMA nationally from my time at Ernst &
Young. Although I started the practice
for restructuring and reorganization
here in Minneapolis, I was working
with a number of other offices, such as
Chicago and Los Angeles, so I had a fair
amount of exposure to professionals
across the country who were involved
with TMA. When the opportunity was
presented to help with starting a local
chapter, I thought it was a great idea
and I was eager to get involved.