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The general counsel of Red Hat, Inc., Mark Webbink, was all for handing his GC title off to Michael Cunningham, 43, a former associate general counsel at International Business Machines Corporation. Webbink, 53, stepped aside this spring to become Red Hat’s deputy general counsel for intellectual property and public policy. He isn’t complaining about losing the top job. “The change allows me to focus on things where I can have the biggest impact � it means I don’t have to go home at night worrying about Sarbanes-Oxley,” says Webbink. The Raleigh-based open source software and Linux operating system provider began contemplating a senior-level addition to the legal department in early 2003. The company was expanding, and senior management realized they needed in-house counsel with more sophisticated legal experience. Webbink has significant intellectual property expertise but less background in corporate governance and international business, two critical areas for the legal chief of a global company, he says. And though Red Hat’s legal team had grown since 2000, when Webbink’s staff consisted of one paralegal, the department was still stretched too thin. According to Webbink, the law department was busy with software licensing and patent matters. Then new issues � such as Sarbanes-Oxley and the open source lawsuits filed by software maker The SCO Group, Inc. � vastly expanded the workload [see "Breaking The Code," January]. SCO sued IBM in March 2003 for infringement of intellectual property rights, alleging that Big Blue had improperly copied part of SCO’s proprietary operating system, Unix, into Linux. The allegations have potential ramifications for distributors and users of Linux-based programs. In August 2003 Red Hat filed a complaint against SCO, seeking a declaratory judgment that Red Hat is not infringing on SCO IP rights. The motion is still outstanding. Cunningham’s almost 20 years of legal practice, including considerable overseas work, should add a few hat sizes to the company’s roughly 15-person legal force. At IBM, Cunningham served as head legal adviser to the business consulting services division for Europe, Middle East, and Africa, and as a member of the division’s global senior management team. Prior to joining IBM, Cunningham was a partner and associate general counsel at PricewaterhouseCoopers, where he was responsible for the legal services related to the firm’s consulting business. He was also the lead lawyer in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa for this business. “I took one look at his resume and said to Matt [Szulik, chairman and CEO], ‘I think we have found the person we’re looking for,’ ” says Webbink. The GC hat appears to be a good fit for Cunningham’s personality as well. According to Webbink, the new GC has a good sense of humor, and they instantly established a rapport. Webbink says anyone asking about Cunningham’s humorous streak should just take a look at his favorite press shot. The photo shows Cunningham, an avid fisherman, clutching a Spanish mackerel.

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