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GC 2018 Winners Witness Big Deals, Executive Changes

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From watching companies make executive changes to property deals in the hundreds of millions of dollars to unloading noncore

businesses, it’s been quite a year for the 2018 Business Journal winners of the ninth annual General Counsel Awards.

Here’s a review of some of the major actions by companies that employed our winners from last November.

REIT Records

Since Troy McHenry, executive vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary of HCP Inc., won in the Public Company category of the GC Awards, his company has made deals worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Last December, it sold an 800,000-square-foot office campus on 51.8 acres in Mountain View to Alphabet Inc. unit Google for $1 billion.

HCP made nearly $700 million on the deal, one of the more profitable real estate transactions of the past year in California.

HCP, an Irvine-based health facilities real estate investment trust, remains a buyer, too.

In September, it said it will buy a 224,000-sqaure-foot life sciences building in Cambridge, Mass., for $332.5 million. The Alewife Research Center is 2 miles from Harvard University and fully leased to five companies for weighted average terms of more than 10 years.

The deal works out to an eye-opening price of nearly $1,500 per square foot, nearly five times what a traditional office in OC would trade for.

HCP also recently bought a nearby building and a development site for another 214,000 square feet; its life sciences holdings in Boston exceed 1.3 million square feet.

The REIT can afford to make a deal or two. The firm’s share price (NYSE: HCP) has been up almost 50% in the past year. It now sports a $17.9 billion market cap, making it the third most highly valued publicly traded company in Orange County.

Team Turnover

Irvine-based Edwards Lifesciences Corp. (NYSE: EW), the highest-valued publicly traded company in Orange County, last year won a GC award in the category of In-House Legal Team.

“You can’t do this alone. I am really proud of this team … and shining light on the whole team is really special,” said Aimee Weisner, Edwards’ general counsel. She had previously won a separate GC award from the Business Journal in 2014.

Weisner departed in July and was replaced by Arnold “Arnie” Pinkston, who left CoreLogic Inc. after 18 months as the Irvine-based real estate technology and data firm’s chief legal officer.

Pinkston is best known as the general counsel at Allergan where he successfully helped the company stymie the hostile takeover bid by Bill Ackman.

Pinkston has more than 30 years of experience as a lawyer and business leader in the medical industry including serving as general counsel at Beckman Coulter, and deputy general counsel at Eli Lilly and Company.

Weisner is still involved in another high-flying medical device company, San Clemente-based Glaukos Corp., where she’s been on the board since 2014.

The share price of Edwards, a maker of heart stent valves, kept plowing ahead, rising about 61% in the past year; it now sports a $46.8 billion market cap, more than twice the value of No. 2 Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. (NYSE: CMG).

Maintaining Growth

Stacey Jue, assistant general counsel of ABM Industries Inc. (NYSE: ABM), earned a GC award in the Specialty Counsel category

Her company, which provides maintenance services, has 140,000 employees in more than 350 offices. It generated $6.4 billion in sales in 2018. It’s based out of New York, but has a 40,000-square-foot operations support outpost in Tustin, its main West Coast base.

In the past year, the company has made significant executive changes such as naming a new treasurer, chief revenue officer, and chief facilities services officer, as well as two new members of the board of directors.

Jue, who is the assistant counsel in charge of its business and industry group, has kept busy providing advice on litigation, labor and employment, and other related matters throughout the U.S.

Its share price rose about 5% in the past year; it has a $2.3 billion market cap.

Stars on Display

Bruce Larson, vice president and assistant general counsel at Irvine-based Advantage Solutions, won a GC award in the Rising Star category.

He provides counsel on all litigation and employment-related issues for a company with 95,000 employees globally and manages a four-person litigation team.

Advantage is a collective of agencies with expertise spanning brand creation and design, retail and consumer experiences, data and digital design, consumer and shopper marketing, and foodservice marketing.

In a sign of its fast growth, the company grabbed the No. 40 spot on Adweek’s 100 list of the fastest-growing agencies worldwide. One of its units, AMP Agency, was No. 88 on the list.

It’s also ranked No. 15 on the list of the World’s Largest 25 Agency Companies by another trade publication, Advertising Age.

Spectrum of Activity

Since last year’s GC Awards win by Paul Bokota, division vice president and division general counsel of Spectrum Brands Inc.’s hardware and home improvement division, his company has been involved in a whirlwind of activity, including the naming of a new chief financial officer last month.

Spectrum (NYSE: SPB), a global consumer products company offering a broad portfolio of brands, sold a couple of its units to Energizer Holdings Inc.: the Global Auto Care (GAC) business in a transaction valued at $1.25 billion; and its Global Battery and Lighting Business for $2 billion.

It also had a $2.12 billion debt reduction initiative that included prepaying in full its term loans totaling $1.23 billion from cash proceeds received from the divestiture of its Global Battery and Lighting business.

After these transactions, the company said it will focus on its core businesses.

That apparently includes Bokota’s Home and Hardware $1.3 billion unit, based out of Lake Forest. The group includes brands such as Kwikset, Baldwin, Weiser and EZSet locks, Pfister faucets and National Hardware. Bokota, who manages attorneys in the U.S. and Asia, oversees all aspects of HHI’s legal functions, including transactions, mergers and acquisitions, labor and other areas.

Its share price has dropped about 35% in the past year and now sports a $2.3 billion market cap.

Bokota remains busy with his second job, too: board member for Irvine’s school district.

Peter J. Brennan
Peter J. Brennan
Peter J. Brennan has been a journalist for 40 years. He spent a decade in Latin America covering wars, narcotic traffickers, earthquakes, and business. His resume includes 15 years at Bloomberg News where his headlines and articles sometimes moved the market caps of companies he covered by hundreds of millions of dollars. His articles have been published worldwide, including the New York Times and the Washington Post; he's appeared on CNN, CBC, BBC, and Bloomberg TV. He was awarded a Kiplinger Fellowship at The Ohio State University.

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