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C. Michael Carter says his biggest challenge as the new general counsel at Dole Food Company Inc. is to deliver legal advice quickly and cost-effectively. Hardly a unique assignment. But the size of the nut Carter has to crack is, well, daunting. Dole is the world’s largest fruit and vegetable company, having $4.8 billion in revenues in 2000, far-flung operations, and a decentralized structure: 60,000 employees spread over 93 countries in a dozen time zones. It’s also a business wrangling with evolving global trade regulations, including European Union banana import rules that have taken a bite out of one of its key markets. As vice president, GC, and corporate secretary, the 57-year-old Carter is intent on bringing his lawyers closer to their clients. Already, both the Latin American (12 lawyers) and Asian (four lawyers) divisions have their own general counsel; a senior lawyer in Europe handles legal issues for the European division. Carter, based at company headquarters in Westlake Village, Calif., routinely holds conference calls at 6 a.m. to accommodate other local time zones. To promote greater teamwork, Carter is having all of the divisions connect to the department’s project management software. The idea: to let everyone see the aggregate exposure of the company at any given moment. “I’m predisposed toward involvement rather than exclusion,” says Carter. “I would rather trust people — give them accountability and tools. … Where there’s empowerment, there’s accountability.” He applies this philosophy to recruiting and retention, too. “I’m looking for breadth,” he says, “for people who want to expand themselves as businesspeople.” Carter says that he looks for candidates who are GC material and that he considers grooming successors part of his job. His own career bears this out. At the legendary guard services company Pinkerton’s Inc., he started as GC in 1994 and ended up as the company’s co-chief operating officer as well by the time he left in 1999. At Concurrent Computer Corporation, where he worked from 1987 to 1994, he went from GC to senior vice president for operations. At both companies, Carter’s hires became GC after he left. When interviewing for the Dole job, Carter pressed chairman and CEO David Murdock about what he wanted from a GC. “He said he was looking for a business partner,” says Carter. That clinched the deal. So how far does Carter think he’ll venture into the business side at Dole? Carter says he has no expectations other than to help the company in whatever way he can. But, he adds, “Hell, I expect the company to come and say, ‘Let’s do something additional’ … . Good companies have to find a way to maximize the deployment of good people.”

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