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Thursday, Feb 29, 2024

Jason Weintraub: Championing In-House Efficiency

For Jason Weintraub, working as an in-house legal professional is more than handling a company’s M&A and contracts.

“Legal decisions are just like any other business decisions,” Weintraub told the Business Journal. The chief legal offer of Irvine-based Jacuzzi Group calls himself “a business executive who just happened to go to law school.”

That mindset has driven Weintraub to boost revenue for the global seller of hot tubs, spas and saunas and optimize the company’s trademark protection program.

Weintraub was honored for his work on Nov. 16 at the Business Journal’s General Counsel Awards at the Irvine Marriott, in the Private Company category.

His latest recognition comes more than a decade after he received the Rising Star Award for similarly championing efficiency at Irvine-based Taco Bell and Broadcom Inc. He most previously served as the chief legal officer for Costa Mesa-based El Pollo Loco Inc. (Nasdaq: LOCO).

“Any success I have at Jacuzzi is because of the best-in-class legal department we’ve built,” Weintraub said. “They’re amazing, high-functioning and they make me better every day.”

OC Raised

Weintraub, who grew up in Seal Beach, took interest in the legal field at a young age. In high school, he joined the mock trial and the debate team. He attended Stanford University, graduating in 1996 with a degree in political science.

Five years later, he earned his J.D. from University of California, Berkeley.

His legal career began in 2001 at Howard Rice Nemerovski Canady Falk & Rabkin LLP, which was later acquired by Arnold & Porter.

As an associate attorney, he worked on intellectual property issues and contracts. His clients ranged from software companies to the NFL’s Oakland Raiders, prior to the team’s move to Las Vegas.

Weintraub later worked at Irvine-based construction firm DRI Companies, where he himself made up the company’s entire legal team.

Alone, he handled roughly 100 pending lawsuits on DRI’s construction defects, which he managed to get under control in a year.

He also reduced DRI’s legal budget by 80%, keeping the use of outside counsel to a minimum.

In 2009, he left DRI for chipmaker Broadcom, which at the time counted about 40 in-house attorneys.

Though the move to a larger, public company offered a bigger budget and more resources, Weintraub continued to cut expenses for Broadcom, particularly in import and export compliance for the company’s hardware products.

“Even when you work at a big company, there’s no reason not to be efficient and thoughtful,” he said.

International Expansions

Weintraub later joined Taco Bell, where he not only took on legal duties but also embraced a new endeavor: leading international business affairs.

The experience forced him to examine the company’s legal matters in the broader business context, as he developed franchising strategies and led Taco Bell’s global expansion.

“Running around the world, bringing chalupas to different countries, has completely transformed the way I think about my role as an in-house lawyer,” Weintraub said. “I realized that if I treat my legal decisions like business decisions, everyone wins.”

Revenue Boost

This month Weintraub celebrated his third year at Jacuzzi, where his M&A deals have added $250 million to the company’s revenue.

Weintraub in 2021 led Jacuzzi’s acquisition of Vortex Leisure, the largest hot tub manufacturer in Australia and New Zealand, which is the third-biggest spa market in the world.

He also oversaw the company’s purchase of Baths for Less, which marked Jacuzzi’s entry into the bath remodel business.

Baths for Less is now Jacuzzi’s fastest-growing segment, with revenue growing tenfold since the merger closed in 2021­, according to officials.

Overall revenue for Jacuzzi last year totaled $1.1 billion.

Infringement Detection

Jacuzzi’s workflow efficiency has also seen an uptick due to Weintraub’s savvy restructuring.

The company previously detected misuses of its name manually, which typically occurs when media outlets use “Jacuzzi” to refer to hot tubs rather than the brand.

Weintraub’s new infringement system, by contrast, employs a third-party vendor whose software automatically detects all mentions of “Jacuzzi” online.

From there, staffers send out cease and desist letters accordingly.

Jacuzzi currently issues 1,500 to 2,000 cease and desists per month, 98% of which are done autonomously, according to Weintraub.

He aims to optimize the process even further with AI.

“We could probably double our numbers with AI in the short term,” he said. “Though we want the amount of letters to go down over time, because that means there’s less infringement.”

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Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung joined the Orange County Business Journal in 2021 as their Marketing Creative Director. In her role she creates all visual content as it relates to the marketing needs for the sales and events teams. Her responsibilities include the creation of marketing materials for six annual corporate events, weekly print advertisements, sales flyers in correspondence to the editorial calendar, social media graphics, PowerPoint presentation decks, e-blasts, and maintains the online presence for Orange County Business Journal’s corporate events.

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