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In November, Eugene DeFelice was appointed senior vice president, general counsel, and secretary of Savvis, based in St. Louis, Mo. The company also has an office in Herndon, Va.
Can you tell us a little about Savvis and what it does? Savvis was created to solve a business problem, and that is that the information- technology infrastructure, such as the servers, the network, are just too complicated and expensive for the average company. So every time one of these companies rolls out a new application, they have to consider the server, system software, storage, network, and other elements of the infrastructure. As the business grows, the complexity and cost of the IT infrastructure grows exponentially. Rather than having to scale out with this infrastructure, we can provide it on a dynamic and responsive service basis, and it allows our customers to focus on their core business rather than IT solutions. We have 24 data centers located around the U.S., Europe, and Asia, where this infrastructure is housed. Today, depending on the industry analyst you talk to, Savvis is one of the top providers of hosting and IT infrastructure services. Our headquarters are in Town and Country, Mo., right outside of St. Louis. Although our headquarters are there, we have large offices in Virginia and California, too, and about 2,200 employees. In 2006, our revenue was about $764 million.
Is there a big legal department? We have about 25 people in our legal department, and two-thirds are lawyers. We’re somewhat geographically dispersed. Some are in our headquarters in St. Louis, and we have a large group in Northern Virginia, and in New York, California, Minnesota, and Chicago. We’ve structured it so that there are five associate general counsels: two for commercial transactions; one on operations and products; one on compliance, governance, and employment law; and one on intellectual-property litigation and M&A. We have a strong legal team, we have a strong work ethic, and we have a good knowledge of the business and the industry and a passion for excellence, and I am lucky in that respect. We also have a lawyer in the United Kingdom that reports to me on a dotted-line basis. What that means is that he reports to the line manager for international operations, but I have oversight responsibility.
To whom do you report? I report to the CFO, Jeff Von Deylen. I also sit on the CEO’s executive team with the CFO and advise the board of directors. Since I joined in November, I feel like I have a good handle on what we do and our departments.
How would you describe your job on a day-to-day basis? I get involved in a wide variety of issues, and I really like that. It can be anything, from SEC and governance and public-company issues to complex transactions, lots of real estate, M&A, litigation, compliance, and the like. Immediately after I joined, over the past several months, we’ve divested a noncore $135 million piece of business, we’ve acquired four data centers, we supported a secondary offering, and then we’ve had a very successful year-end close in which we’ve supported our professional sales team and customers to close out in the business they had pending. This quick start has helped me get a sound fundamental understanding of the Savvis business and started getting my feet wet immediately. Because of Savvis’ business model, our sales group is a key client constituency and revenue growth plays an important part. Our sales transactions tend to be more complex and heavily negotiated than in other industries, so we partner with our sales-client constituents to try to streamline the process. We also require our lawyers to be practical and have good business judgment so that they are not risk and problem identifiers but help the business solve these issues. In terms of my role, which is several-fold, it has both a high-level strategic and then leadership components. First, I would say that I play an important role in facilitating and ensuring a culture of integrity, ethics, and compliance. The second part of my job is to lead, manage, organize, and develop the department to ensure that the legal advice is timely, appropriate, and cost effective, and to ensure that the efforts of the department are aligned with business goals. Finally, I serve as a strategic business partner and adviser to the senior executive team and the board of directors.
What would you say are the challenges of the job? One of the challenges comes about because Savvis is characterized by rapid growth and is in a highly dynamic industry. It means a larger workload for the department, but what is less obvious is that it’s been my experience over my career that as companies reach certain inflection points, it creates the need for the introduction of new and broader and more sophisticated systems and that need includes legal approaches. It seems to me that now that we’re almost at a billion dollars in sales, we may be at such an inflection point. I want to ensure that we have world-class systems and approaches that meet or exceed the expectation of our customers. In terms of substantive challenges, I’d also like to do more in the area of intellectual property in 2007 — it’s one of my goals for the year.
And what are the best parts of the job? I really love my job. I look forward to getting up and coming to work every single day. Since I work 12 to 14 hours a day, it’s so important to me to have fun and enjoy what I do. One of the things I like about it is that I have a great management team, and they set a very ethical tone at the top. To me, that’s really important in the post-Enron, Sarbanes-Oxley environment. We get to participate at the table with the CEO — the legal function is an important cog in the wheel. It feels like we’re all in the boat together, pulling in the same direction. I also enjoy my interactions with the board of directors and the opportunity to serve as their adviser.
What outside firms do you use? I can mention some of the firms I’ve worked with in the past, and we’re now evaluating who we use at Savvis. I’ve worked with some excellent firms: Bryan Cave, Kenyon & Kenyon in New York, Arnold & Porter in D.C., and King & Spalding and Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler. Also, philosophically, I look at outside firms as an extension of the legal department. It’s in-house lawyers’ role to make the retention decisions and then to closely manage the work of outside counsel to make sure it’s delivered appropriately, on time, and cost-effectively.
What is your background? I started my law career as a litigator in a small litigation boutique, which was helpful to understand how litigation worked. Then when you go in-house and manage litigation, it’s a valuable experience. But it’s also pretty clear that litigators don’t always make good litigation managers, since litigation managers need a greater business perspective and different skill set. I was with the litigation boutique for a few years, but I had a passion for business. Then I went to Hoffman-LaRoche, a Swiss-based conglomerate, which made pharmaceuticals and diagnostics. I started with them as an employment attorney. I helped to manage a 500-person discrimination class action lawsuit. That was a significant matter for a 26-year-old lawyer! I was lucky to have a great boss who was a corporate lawyer’s lawyer. He coached and mentored me in that transition from small law firm to in-house at a large multinational conglomerate. Doing employment law was a good place to make that parachute — you could get a bird’s-eye view of how the company is structured. Then I went into the business units and ended up in Geneva in the company’s corporate headquarters in an executive development program. I got my MBA and was rotated through responsibilities in marketing and sales management. It helped me a lot, since I was the recipient of legal services, and now I’m very sensitive to providing legal advice and how to provide practical advice to business clients, to be highly responsive to maintain a deal’s momentum, and to understand the proper legal role as a counselor and not as a business interloper. I was there a couple of years, and it was a great opportunity to obtain international business experience and also on a personal level, as well to travel and enjoy much of what Europe has to offer. Then, back in the States, I had the opportunity to be general counsel for several public companies. I also founded Novo Strategic Partners, a consulting company which provided legal-services management. The one I think was most similar to Savvis was a position I had in the Pacific Northwest with Spacelabs Medical. That was a public company which specialized in medical software, hardware, and an Internet business. I also ran a division of that company. That was another critical formation point in my career — I was lucky to have a mentor on the business side who was the CEO of that company — a highly ethical, results-oriented, analytical person with very high standards. He was willing to mentor me as a business lawyer and a leader, and I think that both experiences where people took time to help me and mentor me have informed my view that development of people in my organization is an important aspect of my job.
What are your goals for your work at Savvis? I would like to continue to increase the business focus of the department and the satisfaction of our client constituencies, and I think that’s a real continuing challenge in all legal departments, to be more like that. I want to deliver legal advice that’s timely, cost-effective, and highly responsive. I’ve seen some legal departments use legal fiat to be an interloper in business decisions. With the exception of issues where [there are] ethics or there are criminal issues, we need to help the business people understand the legal framework, but not dictate business decisions, and also to provide world-class service.
Where would we find you outside the office? I’m married and I have two children, 11 and 8. I’m active in my church, and I like skiing, hiking, and the outdoors. I’m also a pilot and a scuba diver, although I haven’t done a lot of that in the last few years. I got my pilot’s license when I was 19. And I also love movies and reading.
Speaking of reading, read any good books lately? I just read Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin. With all of the books out on Lincoln, it’s a real testament to the job she did. Lincoln surrounded himself with political enemies and won them over, and they ended up loving him. It takes incredible leadership skills, as well as self-confidence and self-assurance and a belief in some underlying values to accomplish that kind of turnaround.

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