ALM Properties, Inc.
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Wearing Two Caps
Ronald Basso once considered himself a Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney lifer. But now, as Basso settles into his new role as head of longtime client Black Box Corporation's legal department, his focus is less on managing the company's legal functions than on identifying business opportunities.
In January, Basso was named executive vice presidentbusiness development, GC, and corporate secretary. "It's not unintentional that my title begins with the business development function," Basso says. "My primary role is to help the company identify strategic business initiatives and help the company do those internally and externally."
At press time Black Box president and chief operating officer Michael McAndrew was set to become the new chief executive officer in April. He and Basso have worked together for years, and as McAndrew began to reorganize his management team, he approached Basso about coming on board in a new capacity.
The two came up with a role that brought the business and legal functions closer together. Basso's job is to look at how Black Box can capitalize on existing assets and identify acquisition targets. "Having the legal background and knowledge of the company, the hope is that we can be more efficient and effective" in meeting those goals, Basso explains.
In his private practice representing public companies on Securities and Exchange Commission compliance and corporate transactions, Basso always felt he could play an important role as a business adviser rather than simply providing legal solutions. Some clients were more receptive than others, he notes, adding that his new role gives him the opportunity to break out of the "lawyer shell."
Basso will be working with several groups within the corporation. There will be a team created to identify strategic objectives for the company. Black Box "plays in a rapidly changing tech space in the communications area," he says, and this group will focus on where the company needs to be headed and how it will get there. There will also be a mergers and acquisitions team of business people who will identify potential acquisition targets, vet them, and then help execute a deal (if it gets to that point).
And then, of course, there is the legal department. There are currently three attorneys, including Basso, who constitute Black Box's in-house team. An attorney based in Herndon, Virginia, handles the company's government contract business, which is about 20 percent of Black Box's revenue, and another in the Lawrence, Pennsylvania, headquarters is a business lawyer focusing on commercial contracts, real estate, litigation, and other matters. Basso will retain a lot of the duties he had as Black Box's outside counsel, which include advising on SEC and corporate governance matters and working with the board.
"My goal is to spend roughly 20 or 25 percent of my time in the GC role and 7580 percent in the business development role to help the company grow, so I probably will be looking to add resources to help me cover some of the areas that I otherwise would be doing if I was here 100 percent of the time as GC," Basso says, noting that he would look to hire more resources in-house.
Having only started in his new role in late January, Basso says it's too early to tell whether he'll make any changes to the outside counsel roster, which includes Buchanan Ingersoll. But he said he believes that if something isn't broken, there's no need to fix it.
Basso will be spending his first few weeks learning even more about the company he has represented since the 1990s. "As with every general counsel," he observes, "the things you think about a lot are the things you don't know about."