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From the Start

John Page meets weekly with other executives at Irvine-based Golden State Foods to help them see their world through a legal filter.

Legal advice is brought in “at the beginning stages of all mission critical objectives,” he said.

That includes the handling of credit lines, acquisitions and other key business moves, according to Page.

There’s been a lot to consult on in his six years at the company.

Golden State, a supplier of meat, sauces, buns and others products to McDonald’s Corp. and other restaurant chains, saw 2009 revenue rise 14% to $4.2 billion, as regional expansions and acquisitions took hold.

Page, Golden State’s general counsel and corporate vice president, said he’s not the last to know about things, like lawyers at some other companies.

“It’s not ‘The deal is done, here finish it up,’” Page said. “At Golden State, it’s ‘Here’s what we’re thinking and this is where we’re going. What are your thoughts?’”

Page has worked on big acquisitions, plant openings and the late 2008 refinancing of a $211 million credit line in the wake of the financial crisis.

He was honored with the Privately Held Company award earlier this month at the Business Journal’s inaugural General Counsel Awards at the Hyatt Regency Irvine.

Page said he compares Golden State to a well-run baseball team.

“Somebody has to get on base and get them around,” he said. “We each have a role in bringing that runner home once they reach a base.”

Page has been responsible for Golden State’s legal, governance and compliance matters for the past six years, during which time he earned a promotion to corporate vice president.

McDonald’s

He has overseen the adding of 12 facilities, including a North Carolina warehouse that opened last year to serve McDonald’s restaurants in the region.

McDonald’s, which makes up the bulk of Golden State’s revenue, has fared well in the downturn as diners turned to less expensive food.

Page also had a hand in expanding Golden State beyond McDonald’s to more than 50 customers, including Irvine-based Taco Bell Corp., Carpinteria-based CKE Restaurants Inc.’s Carl’s Jr., Seattle’s Starbucks Corp. and South Carolina’s Denny’s Corp., among others.

Golden State provides sauces and other liquids, meat, produce and bakery items. The company makes products in its own plants, including one in City of Industry, and delivers them to restaurants.

Page said his legal department has developed ties with other parts of the business and outside law firms to foresee issues before they become problems.

“I try to steer clear of the practice of reaction, response and recovery,” he said. “We try to be prepared to anticipate the curves rather than chasing the horse out of the barn.”

Page grew up with a single mother on government assistance in the projects of Brooklyn.

He graduated in 1987 from Pace University in Westchester, N.Y., and later earned his law degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

“My mother inspired me to keep moving forward when I could have stopped and felt sorry for myself,” Page said.

He came to Golden State from the East Coast after the company did a national search for a general counsel.

“I began to hear about Golden State when they were entering their search,” he said. “But after I read about their values and understood their client relationships, I knew it would be a nice fit.”

Golden State is a credo company that runs on values rooted in the Bible’s Golden Rule. The company urges employees to “treat others like you want to be treated.”

Page reports to Chief Executive Mark Wetterau, who sets the tone and culture at the company.

Before coming to Golden State, Page worked for communications equipment and software company Avaya Inc. in New Jersey. Earlier, he worked at New York-based Cendant Corp. and the U.S. arm of what’s now Panasonic Corp.

Page is involved in several nonprofits including Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County, Shoes That Fit, Phoenix House and the Golden State Food Foundation.

He donates a good chunk of time to the Ronald McDonald House of Orange County and helps out with sick kids and their parents at Children’s Hospital of Orange County and Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo.

“Given my background, it would robbery for me not to give back because so many have given to me,” Page said.

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