Breaking NewsLaw.com and associated brands will be offline for scheduled maintenance Friday Feb. 26 9 PM US EST to Saturday Feb. 27 6 AM EST. We apologize for the inconvenience.

 
X

Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
Name and title: Stephen R. Avera, senior vice president, secretary and general counsel Age: 48 The company: Based in Thomasville, Ga., Flowers Foods Inc. is one of the nation’s largest wholesale bakers. It has been a leader in the baking industry since 1919, originally churning out 30,000 loaves per day. Today, it oversees more than 30 individual subsidiary bakeries, and produces and markets its bakery foods through operating divisions Flowers Bakeries and Flowers Specialty. Flowers Bakeries’ products include breads and rolls sold regionally to “about 35% of the United States population,” according to the company. The Flowers Specialty segment produces snack cakes, pastries and doughnuts, as well as frozen bread, rolls and buns. Flowers’ best-known product is Mrs. Smith’s frozen pies, and it also features the Sunbeam franchise, a staple to generations of Southerners, with which it has partnered since 1944. In addition, the company manufactures various snack items under private and branded labels. It was the first major commercial baker to produce sugar-free bread and to offer Hispanic snack cakes. Listed on the New York Stock Exchange since 1982, and incorporated in 2000, Flowers has 7,000 employees, and Avera expects 2005 sales to exceed $1.7 billion. Daily duties: A standard day does not exist for the Flowers legal chief. Avera said that, as is typical for a general counsel, he is called upon to “know a little about a lot of things,” and being the head of a relatively small department, his responsibilities are many and varied. Although he has a criminal trial background and has previously focused on labor and employment law, he now sees himself as a generalist. He serves as Flowers’ corporate secretary, with all of the attendant duties. He oversees the firm’s mergers and acquisitions program, and supervises its government affairs activities. His team provides legal services to Flowers’ string of bakeries, as do outside law firms. On occasion, Avera meets with officials from the Food and Drug Administration. However, for the most part, he is not required to interact with government agencies. Since the firm does not feature meat or dairy products, he does not have to work closely with U.S. Department of Agriculture regulators. Sarbanes-Oxley compliance: The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 is a focus of Avera and his group, although “not as intensely” as when it first took effect. The team has become “more comfortable coping with it,” but he views the legislation as flawed. It was “passed in a hurry, but is not going away,” he said. Avera expects refinements in the legislation, but does not foresee any political impetus to change it dramatically. Avera believes that he is “paid for his judgment and his decision-making” ability. He tries to impart a sense of the risks and rewards concerning particular issues, but stressed that rarely are legal situations resolved with black-and-white decisions. Like most lawyers, Avera says, he deals in “shades of gray” and strives “to help people exercise good judgment.” Keebler to Kellogg’s: Flowers has grown exponentially since going public in 1968, particularly boosted by its acquisition of more than 100 smaller, family-owned bakeries. With an investment partner, it also purchased the Keebler Cookie Co. in 1996, then sold it to Kellogg’s in 2001. The deal generated $1.5 billion in cash for Flowers’ shareholders. Demurring from detailing other highlights, Avera commented that “most of the time, lawyers deal with things that you can’t talk about.” Legal team and outside counsel: Flowers’ legal team consists of a trio of attorneys, bolstered by a shareholder-relations expert and two “admin people.” Thirty percent of the legal budget is earmarked for in-house work, with the remainder outsourced to external counsel. Avera relies upon long-standing relationships so, in effect, he hires outside attorneys, not necessarily law firms. His lawyers of choice, some of whom Flowers has partnered with for more than 20 years, are with the following firms: the Atlanta office of Jones Day for general legal topics, governance matters and Securities and Exchange Commission issues; Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart for labor and employment; and Atlanta’s Kilpatrick Stockton for intellectual property cases and some litigation. Avera reports directly to Flowers’ Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer George E. Deese. Route to present position: Avera joined Flowers in 1986 and has served in various capacities. He has enjoyed his current status since September 2004. Prior to joining the commercial bakery, he spent four years, one in Korea and three in Germany, as a captain in the U.S. Army’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAG). With a criminal trial practice, he handled cases ranging from bounced checks to murder. He feels that he “could have been a pretty good litigator,” and it was “a great experience,” even though his role at Flowers is different. Avera credits his military stint with teaching him the crucial nature of the role of advocacy, the value of the U.S. legal system and the importance of attorney/client privilege. He is a 1978 graduate with a degree in history and French from the University of Alabama, which he attended on an ROTC scholarship. Avera also spent a half-year at Pusan National University in South Korea, living with a Korean family, and called it “probably the most formative experience I’ve ever had.” He achieved his law degree from the University of Alabama School of Law in 1981. Personal: The Tallahassee, Fla., native’s wife, Anne, now a homemaker, was a labor and employment lawyer and state hearing officer. The couple, who met in law school, both served in the JAG Corps. Their family includes Harrison, 15; Leigh, 12; and Hunter, 9, plus Ecuadorean exchange student Santiago Romo. Avera is an avid reader, particularly of nonfiction, and immerses himself in industry and legal publications. He makes a point of attending “high-grade” seminars several times a year. Last books and movie: History of the Byzantine State, by George Ostrogorski, and Where the Air Is Clear, by Carlos Fuentes; and Cheaper by the Dozen 2.

This content has been archived. It is available through our partners, LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law.

To view this content, please continue to their sites.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Not a Bloomberg Law Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law are third party online distributors of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law customers are able to access and use ALM's content, including content from the National Law Journal, The American Lawyer, Legaltech News, The New York Law Journal, and Corporate Counsel, as well as other sources of legal information.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]

 
 

ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.