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Associate General Counsel and Corporate Secretary Ford Motor Co. 2004 Revenues: $170.8 billion Lawyers in Legal Department: 262
Peter Sherry Jr. just sat and took the punches. It was the winter of 1999, and Sherry, then an assistant general counsel at Ford Motor Co., was in a conference room in G�teborg, Sweden, serving as the lead lawyer for the company in its talks to buy AB Volvo’s car business. Everyone on both teams was tired; for weeks they’d been shuttling between London and G�teborg, hashing out deal points. But now Sherry was getting word that Volvo had, without telling Ford, transferred ownership of a key trademark to one of its subsidiaries — a move that did not violate the terms of the contract, but one which Sherry found an affront to the open spirit of the negotiations. After Sherry calmly explained why the surreptitious act threatened to drag out the negotiations, one of Volvo’s lawyers stood up and, her voice rising, accused Sherry of trying to derail the entire deal. Sherry, now 49, didn’t take the bait. “[Peter] sat there until she ran out of breath, and then very firmly reiterated his point,” recalls Dennis Ross, Ford’s general counsel. “It was a delicate moment, and Peter showed tremendous instincts, tremendous snap judgment. They didn’t mess around with us after that.” The $6 billion deal wrapped up weeks later. Sherry, now an associate general counsel and corporate secretary at Ford, has spent his entire 25-year career with the Dearborn, Mich.-based automaker. But what he lacks in cross-industry experience, he more than makes up for with his staggering range of experience at Ford, a product largely of what his colleagues and superiors call his flawless judgment. “You can pretty much drop him into any thorny situation — a tough deal, litigation, board issues, what have you — and you can bet he’ll choose the path that’s right for the company,” says Ross. “His judgment just transcends practice areas.” In his current position, Sherry oversees all of the transactional legal work at Ford and, as corporate secretary — a job typically reserved for the general counsel — he coordinates all the board-related activities for Ford. It’s no small task. The role at the country’s fourth-largest company involves legal issues relating to proxy statements, corporate governance, and executive compensation. Sherry also works on litigation, especially when it involves securities issues. Sherry joined the company’s legal department in 1980, straight out of the University of Dayton School of Law. Since then, he’s worked on regulatory and environmental issues, handled European debt financings, and spearheaded Ford’s massive stock recapitalization in 2002. Sherry also navigated Ford through one of the busiest transactional periods in its history. In 1997 he led the negotiations over the sale of Ford’s heavy truck division to Freightliner LLC (now owned by DaimlerChrysler AG). Then he headed the $6 billion Volvo deal in 1999, and Ford’s $3 billion acquisition of Land Rover from Bayerishe Motoren Werke AG (BMW) a year later. All the while, he was tearing up the corporate ladder. In 1999 he moved from counsel to assistant GC at the company. Two years later, he was bumped up to associate general counsel. A year after that, he added the corporate secretary duties. Note to Fortune 500 executives looking to hire Sherry down the road: You might have to assemble the perfect package to lure him from Ford. “I’m loyal by nature, and I love this company,” he says. “The job would have to be fantastic to pry me away.”

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