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As predicted, Tad Decker will leave the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to serve as CEO of his former firm, Cozen O’Connor. Decker, 61, made the announcement yesterday at a press conference in Harrisburg, just a few weeks after all of the appeals of slot parlor licenses were upheld by the state Supreme Court in the board’s favor. After joking about his announcement being the worst-kept secret, Decker said he told Gov. Edward G. Rendell that he would not accept a re-appointment as chairman or member of the board. Decker will hold his last meeting for the board on Aug. 8 and will begin as Cozen O’Connor’s chief executive officer on Aug. 9. “I will have zero regrets,” he said of his decision to take the appointment to the board in 2004. As first reported in The Legal in late June, Decker had an offer-in-hand from the firm, but was getting pressure from Harrisburg and Rendell to remain in his post, said sources in Harrisburg and Philadelphia. When asked whether he was being pressured to finish out this term – which ended on July 5 – or to stay on for another three years, Decker said he wasn’t. “The governor knew that I was thinking about doing something else,” he said. Decker had been working with recruiters for the last couple of months to determine what his options were. He said he had spoken with a few other law firms, some private-equity companies and one professional sports team. He said later that the resolution of the slot license appeals was one of a few things that he wanted to see completed before he left his post. Decker said he felt he was committed to stay on the board through the licensing process and felt it was “time to bow out” now that gaming in Pennsylvania is at the regulatory stage. Late Wednesday afternoon, the governor’s office announced that it had appointed board member and former Philadelphia Common Pleas Court judge Mary D. Colins as the next chairwoman of the gaming board. Colins was first appointed by Rendell to the board in 2004 and was re-appointed to a three-year term the following year. Rendell also appointed James B. Ginty to fill the vacant spot on the board. Ginty currently is a senior vice president with Right Management Consultants in Philadelphia. Decker will be taking over for Patrick J. O’Connor, who will step down as president and CEO on Aug. 9 and will serve as one of the three vice chairmen of the firm. O’Connor and Decker had worked together at Pepper Hamilton years ago, and O’Connor said he was delighted that Decker chose to serve as CEO. Legal recruiter Michael Coleman of Coleman Nourian said Decker’s addition to the firm further enhances its expansion beyond insurance work into the business community. Decker, coupled with younger partners Michael Heller and Mark Foley, demonstrates leadership with a strong business background, Coleman said, as compared to the litigation focus brought by Chairman Stephen A. Cozen and O’Connor. “All the general counsels in the country know Tad,” Coleman said. Decker’s contacts nationally and statewide, along with the youthfulness and business focus of Heller and Foley, could help bring the firm to a new level, he said. “His return as CEO marks the beginning of a positive and exciting new era . . . for the firm as it moves forward with a CEO with proven leadership credentials in the corporate and government sectors,” Coleman said. It was originally thought that the succession planning would have been complete by the end of 2006, but sources have said that the firm was waiting for Decker to become available. O’Connor said yesterday that the firm had several options and potential successors for his position. “It was an evolving process,” he said. “It wasn’t pre-determined.” O’Connor said the firm went through an exhaustive succession plan that included the help of Hildebrandt International. The plan included, he said, the redistribution of stock, the creation of new shareholders and the elimination of the managing partner role. Both O’Connor and Cozen reduced their leadership roles earlier this year, but will remain active in the firm’s practice and policymaking. Cozen O’Connor elected its first nine-member board of directors in June. 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 would then be elected in staggered terms. Decker’s appointment is the first time that the firm will be led by someone other than the firm’s founders. He said he would like to have a practice, to the extent that he can, in addition to his managerial duties. He has been doing alternative dispute resolution work and said he plans on continuing that. Decker said his interest is in practicing in the mergers and acquisitions area. Decker had practiced with Cozen O’Connor for four years prior to being appointed to the gaming board in 2004. He served as the firm’s managing partner and focused on a corporate and mergers and acquisitions practice. There were questions brought before the courts about Decker’s ties to the firm given Cozen O’Connor’s representation of a winning slots parlor applicant in Philadelphia, SugarHouse Casino. While he recused himself in voting on SugarHouse’s application, Decker participated in voting on its competitors. “I recused myself from the original deliberations and considerations concerning that one client,” Decker said. “I don’t understand what I have done that people wouldn’t have confidence in me.” There were several times, Decker said, when he wondered if he was crazy for taking the appointment to the board. He said there were disputes with fellow government agencies that annoyed him and roadblocks that “didn’t make any damn sense” to him. The questions of his integrity over his ties to Cozen O’Connor were something that really bothered him, Decker said. “That steamed me up pretty good,” he said. “I’ve never had people challenging my integrity before.” Looking Ahead As rumors floated around town that Decker was set to become Cozen O’Connor’s next CEO, so did rumors that his successor would not be far behind him. At 61, Decker is close in age to Cozen, 67, and O’Connor, 64. 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. Decker said his position is indefinite, but he told the firm that he would like to revisit it every couple of years. He said he wouldn’t consider this a transitional role at all, but added he is limited by his age. Decker said one of his jobs is to ensure proper succession beyond himself, and there are people in leadership roles now who are being groomed for the future. Decker’s first plan of action is to redo the firm’s strategic plan. While he doesn’t know exactly what the next step is for Cozen O’Connor, he said he intends for the firm to grow both in Philadelphia and nationally. Decker said he wouldn’t say a merger is on the horizon, but the firm would look into all opportunities. He said Cozen O’Connor is more interested in being an acquirer. Decker sits on the boards of Internet Capital Group, the YMCA, the Philadelphia Zoo and the Gesu School. He is a former chairman of the Philadelphia Municipal Authority and a former board member of the Delaware River Port Authority, PATCO and Pierce Leahy Corp. Prior to joining Cozen O’Connor, Decker held senior executive positions for a number of major corporations, including Asbury Automotive Group and Unisource Worldwide Inc., where he was executive vice president and general counsel, and Saint-Gobain Corp., where he was chief operating officer and general counsel.

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