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Name and title: Jon D. Botsford: senior vice president, secretary and chief legal officer. Age: 49 Office Furniture King: With fiscal 2003 revenue of $2.6 billion, 16,000 employees, 900 dealer locations and 50 manufacturing facilities in 15 countries, Steelcase Inc. of Grand Rapids, Mich., is the world’s largest office furniture maker. Publicly traded since 1998, it has also ranked among Fortune 500′s Top 10 of America’s most admired companies for its social responsibility and use of corporate assets. Steelcase’s stated goal is to integrate harmoniously architecture, furniture and technology, enhancing the quality of life in the workplace as it does so. Spotlight on Steelcase: Steelcase played a pivotal, behind-the-scenes role in the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling on the constitutionality of the University of Michigan’s affirmative action-based admissions policies. The court’s majority opinion, voiced by swing vote Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, cited the influence of a friend-of-the-court brief extolling diversity-”The Brief for Amica Curiae: 65 Leading American Businesses”-a document that Botsford was instrumental in generating. General Motors Corp. had previously filed an amicus brief supporting affirmative action when the issue was still pending at the trial court level. Steelcase President and CEO James Hackett, Botsford and University of Michigan President Lee Bollinger (a long-time associate of Hackett’s) then decided to broaden the effort. They formulated a document that was prepared, on a pro bono basis, by attorneys from Chicago-based Jenner & Block. “We went through the process of contacting other companies who had similar feelings about the issue as Steelcase to also sign on to the brief,” attracting 20 of them, Botsford said. Continuing their crusade through “networking and other means,” Botsford and Hackett got 32 companies on board by the time the case reached the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and eventually increased the number to the final 65 at the high court. In Botsford’s opinion, “There is a social aspect to it, but we think it also makes good business sense. Diversity fits in with our core values. We are the most global company in the industry and [it] can help us compete on a global level.” Not everyone, of course, agreed with the Supreme Court’s decision, in which the University of Michigan Law School’s race-influenced admissions policies were found to be constitutional (although its undergraduate ones were struck down). Botsford lamented: “We attracted attention from white supremacy groups, or other groups on the opposite end of the spectrum on this issue, that threatened boycotts against the companies that signed on to the briefs.” The seeds of Steelcase’s stance perhaps can be traced to the formation of the Steelcase African-American Diversity Network. Since 1992, employee teams have conducted a diversity-training program, dispensed advice on minority issues and given pointers in such areas as proper interview techniques and downsizing. Million patent problem: Coincidentally, on the day before Botsford was to start at Steelcase, rival Haworth Inc. of nearby Holland, Mich., sued the company for patent infringement relating to electrified office furniture panels. In 1989, Steelcase was found liable for willful patent infringement. Steelcase then accused Haworth of infringing two of its own patents and Haworth responded by adding another infringement claim to its complaint. The case finally concluded in 1996 with a whopping, nonappealable judgment of $211.5 million against Steelcase. At the time, it was the second-largest patent judgment in U.S. history. Botsford, involved in the case from inception to conclusion, states that his firm “does have a pretty good record on litigation, notwithstanding the Haworth case.” Prison blues: Stung by losing a lucrative federal prison contract to an organization that uses low-paid prisoner employment, Steelcase has become “very involved” in the legislative effort to change the law so as to achieve a more level playing field in the competition for government contracts, Botsford said. Botsford’s team is now responsible for reviewing and responding to contractual requirements on federal or state bids. A consequence of this, said Botsford, is that “There are lots of compliance issues that you voluntarily agree to take on as being a supplier to the government.” Legal team: Botsford has global leadership responsibility for all Steelcase legal services. He reports directly to Hackett and, as secretary, works closely with Chairman Robert C. Pew III. He supervises a legal group of 23, including 11 attorneys, three assistants and seven other team members who perform in supporting capacities. There are also two manager-level nonattorneys, one specializing in securities compliance and the other in products liability. Steelcase’s legal menu features antitrust and furniture distribution matters, cyberlaw, contracts, real estate and intellectual property. Also on the plate are employee-relations issues and work force adjustments, as well as collaborative efforts with companies such as IBM and DuPont. Botsford tries to do as much of this legal work as possible in-house. Certain practice areas, though, including mergers and acquisitions, debt financing and import/export compliance sometimes require outside counsel, selected on an as-needed basis. Key outside counsel: New York’s Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom; Chicago’s Jenner & Block; Detroit’s Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn; Price, Heneveld, Cooper, DeWitt & Litton of Grand Rapids; Miller, Johnson, Snell & Cummiskey of Grand Rapids; and Baker & McKenzie. Route to the top: Botsford was born in Muskegon, Mich., and resides in Caledonia, near Grand Rapids. A graduate of Michigan State University, he later received a J.D. from the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law. Before joining Steelcase in 1985, he clerked at the 6th Circuit and then practiced at Jenner & Block in Chicago and Grand Rapids’ Warner Norcross & Judd. He has steadily ascended the ranks at Steelcase and assumed his present position in 1999. Family facts: Wife, Joan; children, Jack, 16; Tess, 14; and Matthew, 11. Last book read: Actually, Botsford spends much of his reading time at the writing desk “working on his own books,” but recently finished Valdez is Coming, by Elmore Leonard. Last movies seen: Drumline, The Tin Star, old movies on cable TV. -Roger Adler

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