I moved to Chicago in ’71
to be the controller of a New York Stock
Exchange corporation, an old, large
Chicago-based firm that merged with IC
Industries in 1977. We had 17 subsidiaries
worldwide, and a couple of them were
troubled. I became CFO of this company
in 1973—I was young, 33 or 34—and like
most CFOs, you focus on the troubled
ones because you need to get them
fixed. That gets you into thinking shorter
term. It’s bleeding cash. What can we do?
So I spent time working with our
troubled operations—more so than I
expected to while carrying out all of my
other CFO duties.
I spent six years there and then was
recruited to turn around a 50,000-
employee-base corporation called
Interstate United Corporation, based
here in Chicago, which was the third-largest food service company in the
U.S. at the time. That was more of an
operational turnaround, where I became
executive VP and really got serious
management and board experience.
I wound up merging Interstate United
Corporation into (the former) Hanson
Trust out of London, England. I led
the merger and then was recruited by
an old-line department store chain in
Chicago called Goldblatt Brothers, which
was visibly troubled. I joined the board
of directors and was named chairman of
the finance committee, and as executive
vice president, I led the restructuring
of the company prepetition.
In 1978, bankruptcy legislation was
changed to give debtors rights to
reorganize, to hold their creditors
at bay for at least 120 days and then
beyond. Although I had a corner
office and all of that, I really wasn’t
happy with the retail industry, and
I set out to start my own firm.
As it turned out, the first two clients I
reorganized, I acquired. The bank said,
“You’ve done such a great job, why
don’t you just buy them?” Back then,
you could buy a company for $50,000,
and the banks would put up $1 million.
I bought the first two, but they took up
a lot of my time, and I wanted to be
on the intellectual, professional side of
things because I’d been CEO and on
boards in larger Corporate America. So,
I sold them and made a good return
on my investment. I then focused
on the consulting side, and by 1983, I
had my first large publicly held client,
headquarter in Minneapolis, which was
successfully reorganized in a Chapter 11
setting. By 1984, I had a very large public
company out of Ohio. In ’85, the clients
were getting bigger and bigger. By 1988, I
probably had about 30 people in the firm.
We grew to about 60 people in the ‘90s.
So I found myself working for businesses
that needed help. In fact, we used the
term “crisis management” very early
on. Our logo said “crisis management”
because our clients were running out of
time and running out of money. They
were privately held or midsized publicly
traded companies. They didn’t have easy
access to bond markets or public capital
markets. They were highly leveraged.
Their assets were all pledged to the
bank, and you needed to work with the
creditors while you fixed the business.
That’s how I got into the turnaround
industry—through large corporate
turnarounds. It was a wonderful
experience, and I enjoyed every
moment of it.
Q When I’ve talked to other Snapshots ubjects, I’ve asked them what
effect TMA has had on their careers. You
had a successful career before TMA got
started, and you took on TMA. Why did
you think TMA was important?
I wanted to make the
turnaround industry a recognizable
profession. I felt that an organization
could help us grow as a group and then
grow the group to network with others.
While I was working in the early days in
TMA, I became a member of the board of
the American Bankruptcy Institute. I
guess I’m a born salesman, so I saw
networking as a way to grow TMA and to
grow the profession.
In many ways—others would say this
for me—I helped give us standing as
professionals under the Bankruptcy
Code. We didn’t have that standing
when I first testified in the early
‘80s. I’d like to think that some of
us early on contributed heavily to
that professional recognition.
We were at that time one of the largest
firms in the country, and I wanted to
meet the other people in the industry.
I lectured with them, I published
material in some of their textbooks,
etc., and I wanted to give us standing
Special thanks to the 2013
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