He was a senior partner handling major transactions for the city’s largest law firm. He loved his work, admired his partners and, at 50 years old, was at the height of his earning power.

So why did Robert Cloues leave Morgan Lewis & Bockius in January 1998 after 25 years with the firm — almost 20 as a partner — to take the helm of a 500-employee industrial-feeder manufacturer that was on the brink of bankruptcy only three years before?

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