ALM Properties, Inc.
Page printed from: International News
Select 'Print' in your browser menu to print this document.
Obama Administration Picks Wilson Sonsini CEO for Japan Ambassador Slot
Roos, an early supporter and heavy fundraiser for Obama, has been chief executive at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati since 2005 and a partner at the technology-focused firm since 1988. While he still practices law, a majority of his time is spent managing Wilson's 1,500 employees across seven U.S. offices and one in Shanghai.
"Japan is one of the most important trading partners to the U.S. and one of the most important technology partners with Silicon Valley, and John has been deeply connected with technology companies in Silicon Valley," said Craig Johnson, co-founder of the '90s startup firm Venture Law Group, and now CEO of Virtual Law Partners, launched in 2008. Johnson has known Roos for 20 years since he was a partner at Wilson Sonsini.
"It shows that the Obama administration isn't following the old patterns. It's looking for new blood."
Consultant Peter Zeughauser said the firm should have no trouble finding someone to fill Roos' slot if his nomination is confirmed by the Senate. Chairman Larry Sonsini is also "as active as ever."
"They have a pretty strong management team there. There are people around Larry who are all very strong," Zeughauser said.
The firm declined to comment on the nomination, aside from saying Roos is "honored" and looks forward to the confirmation process. The firm was mum on who might replace Roos.
"We have a sound management structure with an executive chairman, experienced board and management team, and a succession process," firm spokeswoman Courtney Dorman said. "If John is confirmed, we will announce our plans at that time."
Johnson said Roos will be hard to replace at Wilson, but succession shouldn't be a problem because the firm has a "deep bench" of management talent.
"John, in my experience, obviously has very good consensus-building political skills, and those skills are rare among law firm partners."
Recruiter Stacy Miller Azcarate said the announcement brings prestige not only to Wilson but Silicon Valley as a whole.
"Normally those types of appointments come from older firms, more established, East Coast and D.C.-based firms, so it's great for Silicon Valley as a whole, and it really reflects that the region is an entree to Asia," Azcarate said.
When he wasn't building a career as a top lawyer in the fields of corporate finance, M&A and venture capital, Roos nurtured a passion for Democratic politics. He has been an adviser and fundraiser to four presidential campaigns, including those of Sen. John Kerry, Vice President Walter Mondale and Sen. Bill Bradley. He most recently worked on the national and California state finance committees of Obama's campaign.
Roos also took a year off during his time at Stanford Law School to intern at the White House during the Carter administration in 1979.
Roos contributed $4,800 to Obama's campaign. Wilson Sonsini employees contributed $116,889, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Last week, the Japanese press reported Roos would be tapped for the post. Some lamented Roos' lack of diplomatic experience.
Zeughauser felt Roos' lawyering skills, discretion and closeness to Obama would come in handy.
"Who does Obama want to be his person in Japan? He wants someone who he can entrust a very important relationship to," Zeughauser said. "There's the whole Korea element, the whole China element, the whole economic element, so he wants someone there who he has confidence in."
Following recent missile and nuclear tests, North Korea reportedly withdrew on Thursday from the 56-year-old truce that had halted the Korean War.