Gary Doernhoefer — Orbitz.com
GC of Chicago-based Internet travel site since September 2000.
Year in a nutshell: I’ve gone through birth, growth, downturn and life again. It’s like watching your children grow.
First shock: Inheriting a business plan by outside consultants that didn’t make any sense … then starting from scratch.
High point: When I started the job at Orbitz, I was employee No. 30; now I’m No. 160. We also made a successful launch and achieved sustained revenues.
Low point: We were pumped up about our future — then came Sept. 11. We had one million registered users, then an abrupt halt — no one was using our site. We’re funded by five major airlines [American, Continental, Delta, Northwest and United], so when they hurt, we hurt. I also came over from American Airlines, so I know people personally who were affected.
What’s next? Our site has picked up again — but it’s nowhere near the volume we once had. If there’s one bright spot, it’s that we’re low-cost providers to airlines — so they have incentive to sell seats through us. Because we don’t charge as much [as other Web sites], we might get back [revenue] faster than others.
What he’d do differently: I’d spend more money up front to focus on the long-term structure of the legal department — like coordinating intellectual property programs, creating form files, etc.: All the things that a mature legal department should have. But [instead,] I spent six months of intensive work in [Washington,] D.C. on the regulatory front, then turned my attention to running a corporate department.
Andrew Rackear — Amersham Biosciences Corp.
GC and president of Piscataway, N.J.-based biotech company since November 2000.
Year in a nutshell: Very hectic.
First shock: For someone who majored in Chinese history in college, it was a challenge to learn about biotechnology. But the best thing about working in biotech is that you work with very smart people — some of whom are very good at explaining the science to a layman. I also learned by being involved in the business plan. But being a lawyer in any field draws on the same basic legal skills — it’s no different being a lawyer for a company that sells consumer products than one that’s developing a chromatography system [for the production of biopharmaceuticals].
High point: Becoming part of the senior management team and building a first-rate international law department. We now have three lawyers in North America, two in the U.K., two in Sweden. It’s also fun to be involved in a business that’s changing so rapidly. For instance, we make instruments that sequence the human genome, which has enormous potential for diagnosing and treating diseases. We’re also involved in proteomics [a field centered around the study of the protein content in cells] that aids in the development of drugs. The work is truly cutting-edge.
Low point: We were supposed to do our IPO in 2000, but that didn’t happen because the market deteriorated. People were disappointed, but everyone understood that the market had changed. The good thing is that we’re not a startup; we’re part of a much more substantial corporation [Parent is U.K.-based Amersham plc.], so it [the IPO issue] didn’t affect us that much.
What’s next? The legal group probably has the right amount of staffing for now. We’re a service group, so how we grow depends on the direction of the company. We don’t have the critical mass to do deals or litigation in-house, so we will continue to send those matters out. But we try to do as much legal work internally as we can. My priority is to avoid litigation. In the time I’ve been here, we haven’t had a single commercial litigation outside of the patent field. In the biotech area, there’s always a need to be vigilant about your IP [intellectual property].
What he’d do differently: I wish we had been more involved in pro bono work. It’s something that corporate departments don’t usually do. But especially now, I feel it’s important. Probably one of the most meaningful things I’ve done here was to set up a fund to help people in central New Jersey [a commuter area hit hard by the World Trade Center devastation].
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