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Could Tad be back? It looks that way. There’s more than a loud whisper in the legal community that Gaming Control Board Chairman Tad Decker will be leaving his post to take over as chief executive officer of Cozen O’Connor. Decker had been managing partner of the firm from 2000 until his departure for the board in 2004. Sources in both Philadelphia and Harrisburg have said that water-cooler talk has long placed Decker as the incoming CEO, and with the recent announcement that firm leaders Stephen A. Cozen and Patrick J. O’Connor are giving up their leadership roles, that could become a reality within the next few weeks. “That is very much the plan,” one source said when asked if Decker was going back to Cozen O’Connor to run the firm. Cozen and a Decker spokesman had refuted last year the rumors of Decker’s return to Cozen O’Connor. Gaming Control Board spokesman Doug Harbach had said in November that Decker anticipates finishing out his term, which concludes at the end of 2007. Decker would have the option of continuing on for another three-year term or leaving his post at that time, Harbach said. Cozen had said in November that he would be happy to talk to Decker about rejoining the firm, but no talks were ongoing at that time. In an interview yesterday, Harbach said Decker has received a “plethora” of interests in him from the corporate and legal communities. “He’s in demand,” he said. He said Decker continues to listen to offers, but has not made any decisions in terms of what he would do beyond the end of his term on the board. Cozen reiterated yesterday that the firm is interested in talking to Decker, but said that any decision or timing would be up to Decker. “I cannot confirm or deny [whether Decker is rejoining the firm] because if, as and when we talk to Tad and he agrees to do the job, when that occurs, the determination itself and the timing would be up to him,” Cozen said. A few weeks ago, Cozen had said an announcement of the firm’s new CEO could come on or before July 15. The firm issued a statement last week regarding changes to its governance structure to allow for the transition of its first generation leadership. Cozen O’Connor opened in 1968, and the two leaders have been running the firm pretty much ever since. They have now relinquished their leadership roles, but will remain active in the firm’s practice and policymaking. Cozen will continue to serve as chairman, and O’Connor will serve as vice chairman. The firm said it wanted to continue its executive culture, giving broad powers to the CEO, a management committee and a board of directors. The management committee will lead the day-to-day practice and business operations of the firm. Cozen said the nine-member board of directors was originally appointed by Cozen and O’Connor, and the members will then be elected in staggered terms. Members of the management committee are Vincent R. McGuinness, Michael J. Heller, Elliott R. Feldman, William Patrick Shelley and Ann Thornton Field. The Harrisburg Holdup Decker has come under fire lately from anticasino groups who questioned whether his ties with Cozen O’Connor affected the awarding of gaming licenses, despite the fact that Decker recused himself from the voting. Cozen O’Connor represents clients involved with the SugarHouse project in Fishtown. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court rejected earlier this month a request for it to launch an inquiry into Decker’s ties to the firm. While it might be an opportune time for Decker to leave the board for political reasons, those same reasons may be keeping him there longer than expected. One of the sources who was certain that Decker was expected to return to Cozen O’Connor said Decker was having more trouble than expected leaving Harrisburg. “He’s having a hell of a time getting out of Harrisburg,” the source said. Word on the street in Harrisburg is that Cozen O’Connor made a “generous” offer to Decker earlier this week, but it is unclear whether he has officially accepted. There is apparently pressure from Gov. Edward G. Rendell being placed on Decker to stay in his position, sources in the capital have said. G. Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin & Marshall College, said Decker has seen gaming in Pennsylvania through most of its initial stages. “This is probably, if he’s going to leave, as good a time as any,” Madonna said. If there is a holdup in Decker’s departure from Harrisburg, Madonna said it may be because there are key policy decisions yet to be made or turnover that needs to be handled. While there might have been a few problems getting gaming up and running in the commonwealth, particularly in Philadelphia, Madonna said Decker could leave satisfied that he implemented much of the groundwork. “The governor seems very happy with the operation,” he said. Rumors of Decker’s return to Cozen O’Connor have been circulating for months. “I didn’t think it was that much of a secret,” another source familiar with the firm said. “That’s why Pat [O'Connor] has been waiting.” Cozen O’Connor had announced a year ago that it was in the process of succession planning, making changes to several department and practice leadership roles within the firm. The succession planning would conclude, the firm had said, with O’Connor stepping down as CEO, probably by the end of 2006. Almost seven months later, that has yet to happen. “My guess was always that they were waiting for Tad to be available,” the source said. Cozen said in early June that Decker has been subjected to unfair personal attacks merely because he “helped his friend the governor, who wanted to have a first class board.” He also said that Decker “doesn’t get paid bupkes” as head of the Gaming Control Board. In the fall of 2004, Rendell had appointed Decker, a personal friend, to the $150,000-a-year position. Tad the Temp? While Cozen O’Connor leadership is said by many to have a lot of confidence in Decker, who is in his early 60s, the former managing partner is not far from the ages of Cozen, 67, and O’Connor, 64. Several sources have said that Decker would be brought in for a few years to give some of the younger attorneys more time to develop. A few names have been mentioned as possible successors to Decker, comprised mainly of partners recently elevated to other leadership roles within the firm. Ann Field was named chairwoman of the firm’s national commercial litigation practice group, along with her role as chairwoman of the insurance department. Larry Bowman, a partner in the firm’s Dallas office, was named chairman of Cozen O’Connor’s general litigation practice. But of the names mentioned as possible successors, the one at the top of the list was the recently appointed chairman of the business law department, Michael Heller. Sources have said that Heller, Cozen’s nephew, was thought by a number of people in the firm to be next in line for the CEO spot after Decker. He has been with the firm since 1994 and previously practiced at Wolf Block Schorr & Solis-Cohen. Heller was elevated to chairman of the business group in January, during merger talks between Wolf Block and Cozen O’Connor.

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