As Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney lifer Ronald Basso settles into his new role as head of longtime client Black Box Corp.’s legal department, his focus will be less on managing the company’s legal functions and more on identifying business opportunities.
"It’s not unintentional that my title begins with the business development function," Basso said. "My primary role is to help the company identify strategic business initiatives and help the company do those internally and externally."
Black Box President and Chief Operating Officer Michael McAndrew is set to become the new chief executive officer in April. He and Basso had worked together for years and as McAndrew began to reorganize his management team, he approached Basso about coming on board in a new capacity.
The two came up with a role that brought the business and legal functions closer together — executive vice president-business development, general counsel and corporate secretary.
Basso said he will be looking at how Black Box can capitalize on existing assets and identifying acquisition targets.
"Having the legal background and knowledge of the company, the hope is that we can be more efficient and effective" in meeting those goals, Basso said.
In his private practice representing public companies on SEC compliance and corporate transaction issues, Basso said he always felt he could play an important role as a business adviser rather than simply providing legal solutions. Some clients were more receptive to that than others, he said, adding his new role gives him the opportunity to break out of the "lawyer shell."
Basso will be working with several groups within the corporation. There will be a team created to identify strategic objectives for the company. He said Black Box "plays in a rapidly changing tech space in the communications area" and this group will focus on where the company needs to be headed and how it will get there, Basso said.
There will also be a mergers and acquisitions team of business people who will identify potential acquisition targets if the strategy team decides that is a good approach for the company. The M&A team will identify targets, vet them and then help execute a deal if it gets to that point, Basso said.
And then of course there is the legal department. There are currently three attorneys, including Basso, who constitute Black Box’s in-house legal team. There is an attorney based in Herndon, Va., who handles the company’s government contract business, which is about 20 percent of Black Box’s revenue. And then there is another attorney in the Lawrence, Pa., headquarters who is a commercial business lawyer focusing on commercial contracts, real estate, litigation and other matters. Basso will maintain a lot of the duties he had as Black Box’s outside counsel, such as SEC matters, corporate governance and working with the board.
"My goal is to spend roughly 20 or 25 percent of my time in the GC role and 75 to 80 percent in the business development role to help the company grow, so I probably will be looking to add resources to help me cover some of the areas that I otherwise would be doing if I was here 100 percent of the time as GC," Basso said, noting he would look to hire more resources for the internal legal department.
Having only started in his new role January 28, Basso said it was too early to tell whether he would make any changes to Black Box’s roster of outside counsel, which includes Buchanan Ingersoll. But he said he is a believer that if something isn’t broken, there is no need to fix it.
Basso will be spending his first few weeks learning even more about the company he has represented since the 1990s.
"As with every general counsel, the things you think about a lot are the things you don’t know about," Basso said.
Black Box has the same regulatory challenges as any public company, Basso said. While there aren’t any specific regulations that he is expecting will directly impact companies like Black Box, all public corporations are still dealing with the implementation of the Dodd-Frank Act, he said.
Basso’s departure from Buchanan Ingersoll left a hole in the firm’s corporate department leadership. That was quickly filled by Jeremiah G. Garvey, who has taken over as co-chairman of the firm’s corporate section along with existing Co-Chairman Thomas G. Buchanan.
Garvey said that while other firms may have looked to expand their corporate practices around the world, Buchanan Ingersoll has maintained its emphasis on its core markets of Pennsylvania, the Mid-Atlantic region and the East Coast.
That has been both a strength and a challenge for the department, Garvey said, in that it creates a strong commitment to the region but also can make it difficult to grow the practice.
One way the firm can achieve that growth, Garvey said, is to blend the firm’s corporate work with some of the key strengths at Buchanan Ingersoll, including the firm’s energy and health care practices as well as work for manufacturing and university clients in the Pittsburgh area.
Garvey focuses his practice on securities-related transactions and corporate governance, specifically in connection with private capital financings, public offerings and the organization, funding and ongoing representation of emerging growth technology companies and venture firms. He is a member of Buchanan Ingersoll’s board of directors and co-chairman of the firm’s securities/SEC practice group.