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Name and title: David Aronowitz, executive vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary Age: 46 Great Scotts The Scotts Co., based in Marysville, Ohio, is the major player in what Aronowitz jokingly refers to as “the dirt business.” With net annual sales of $1.74 billion (representing 52% of the U.S. market share and 25% of Europe’s), it is America’s largest manufacturer of fertilizers, insecticides and weed killers. It is also the leading global supplier of consumer lawn and garden products, including Miracle-Gro soil, gardening tools and ceramic pottery. Litigation Lightening rod: “Scotts’ success has made it a ‘deep pockets’ target for competitors seeking easy money through threatened litigation,” Aronowitz said. As Scotts is pre-eminent in the field and the leader in several product niches, the GC explained, “We tend to compete aggressively. It’s rare that somebody I write a letter to saying ‘You’re infringing our trademark,’ doesn’t respond with ‘I’m going to sue you for antitrust violations if you sue me.’ We also tend to be very aggressive on the plaintiff’s side of things. If we get misled or there are misrepresentations in an acquisition, we have a history of proceeding against the sellers . . . with a high degree of success.” Garden-variety suits: AgrEvo v. Scotts is one such suit currently on Aronowitz’s agenda. AgrEvo, an agricultural chemical firm, exited the consumer garden field, as did Monsanto Co. Scotts sought to acquire Monsanto’s business but, failing to reach an agreement, instead bought AgrEvo’s. Ultimately, as circumstances changed, Scotts was able to purchase Monsanto’s slice of the pie and, for antitrust reasons, chose to divest AgrEvo. AgrEvo, in turn, sued Scotts for antitrust violations, alleging a conspiracy with Monsanto. With the case currently pending in the Southern District of New York after a four-year struggle, Aronowitz calls it “A classic case of lawyers stumbling upon what has at least a superficial appearance of a potential antitrust claim and then constructing a lawsuit without much regard for the actual facts.” Scotts is also in the midst of a suit filed against it by 39 railroad workers who allege that shipments to the company of vermiculite, formerly a component of herbicides and fertilizers, gave them asbestosis. Under Ohio law, however, most of the alleged victims are ineligible for damages from Scotts because they are plaintiffs in related litigation against W.R. Grace & Co., owner of the mine where the ore originated. “This does not keep me awake at night, as most of the remaining cases have no basis for claim, and, also, no injuries,” he said. Scotts has had to settle a suit, to the tune of $8 million, with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (with whom, Aronowitz claims, “we have a very good relationship”) concerning waste-disposal sites at its headquarters. Waste that accumulated there until 1984, and was disposed of in accordance with outdated and unregulated practices, is the focus of the Ohio agency. In addition to the cleanup, Scotts faces deed restrictions on site redevelopment, will be subjected to future water tests and, for an estimated $6.8 million, may have to reroute a creek on the premises that could be tainting the water supply of nearby Columbus, Ohio. In 2002, the garden giant received a favorable $22.5 million verdict in a suit against Central Garden & Pet Co. over accounts receivable. Aronowitz reiterates that he and his team prepare every major case as if it will go to trial, going the settlement route only if it is truly warranted. Rarely do they get involved in the “my lawn turned brown” variety of complaint. Legal department: Aronowitz leads a group of six in-house attorneys-three who do the bulk of North American and Securities and Exchange Commission-related legal work and three who do “everything else.” Along with administrative assistants and secretaries, the department has a pair of paralegals, one who specializes in trademarks, the other an expert in computer systems and billing. Aronowitz plans to add two more lawyers to his staff in the near future. Litigation management, mergers and acquisitions and small acquisitions are handled internally. Aronowitz outsources patent, trademark and intellectual property work and also relegates the nuts and bolts of litigation to outside counsel. Jones Day; Hunton & Williams; Los Angeles-based Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges; and Columbus’ Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease are among the firms used by Scotts. Jones Day, in particular, is called upon for international matters. GC’s duties: Aronowitz zealously monitors competitors’ product lines, promotional materials and packaging to ferret out potential trademark and trade dress infringement. He is also active in corporate environmental safety and community relations. The GC deals with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the regulation of numerous Scotts products and said that the Securities and Exchange Commission, New York Stock Exchange and other statutory compliance work consumes much of his time. He asserts, though, that “We had started ahead of the curve” before Sarbanes-Oxley became part of the daily parlance. Aronowitz stresses flexibility and passion as keys to his success. “We prevail as a function of our passion,” he said, adding that he strives to understand the business “through the eyes and intensity of a marketer, salesperson or customer.” Route to the top: Aronowitz is a graduate of Haverford College and Yale Law School. Starting as a litigator at New York-based Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, he then moved, in 1989, to a series of companies under the umbrella of private equity firm Forstmann Little Co. Inc., a period he describes as “marking his transition from outside litigator type to in-house generalist.” In 1995, Aronowitz joined Columbus’ Insilco Corp. as assistant general counsel and, three years later, assumed that position at Scotts. He became GC in October 2001. Family: Aronowitz and his wife, Carol, have three children: Catherine, almost 11, Daniel, 9, and Caroline, 5. The family dog is Hannah. Last book read: Primal Leadership, by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee; he is rereading Phenomenology of Spirit, by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Aronowitz also makes a point of reading a book a night to each of his children. Last movie seen: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. -Roger Adler

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