Arthur Makadon, a hard-nosed litigator who also helped transform Ballard Spahr into a national presence during a decade as chairman, has died after a short illness.
Makadon, who was 70, checked into University of Pennsylvania Hospital about a week ago and learned soon after that he had late-stage lung cancer. He died early Wednesday morning.
Makadon served as chairman of Ballard Spahr from 2002 to 2011 when he handed over the reins to his longtime friend and protege, Mark Stewart. Makadon continued an active litigation practice since stepping down as chairman.
"If someone were writing a history of Ballard Spahr, he would be the leading man," Stewart said of Makadon. "His influence on the firm and his role in its success is unfathomable. He's just been part of everything."
As a litigator, Makadon had the ability at an intuitive level to understand situations and matters that would often escape the average person, Stewart said. Makadon knew what was important in the litigation and what wasn't.
He tended to play behind the scenes on both the litigation and political fronts. He would often decline to comment publicly on litigation and would work on campaigns and government relations initiatives from a slightly removed perspective.
"He liked to be behind the scenes and thinking about the strategic direction of a campaign or how a matter could best be handled politically," Stewart said. "He was never in the middle of the fray. He was always outside of that but having an influence on it."
Makadon was known for saying quite candidly whatever was on his mind. Stewart said it was fair to consider him as both appearing unfriendly at times but also someone that could be "generous, warm, funny and kind."
Makadon was most comfortable with a small group of friends and would surround himself with those he felt he could trust, Stewart said.
"He would rarely go through the niceties of pretending to be enamored with someone he wasn't enamored with," Stewart said.
But to be close with Makadon meant knowing he did have that warm and fuzzy side.
For Stewart personally, Makadon was a mentor and friend.
"There's no question that he gave me every opportunity to succeed and I obviously wouldn't be where I am without him," Stewart said. "He was generous with opportunities and generous with his time."
Stewart said Makadon was nurturing of Stewart's professional and personal life and was never too busy to help guide Stewart on an issue.
As a mentor, one of Makadon's best qualities was that he was incredibly forgiving, Stewart said.
"He was not expecting people to be perfect," Stewart said, noting Makadon would say instead, "'Hey, it happens.'"
Makadon refused to allow the work of the law to bog down the firm's attorneys from friendships and good times, Stewart said.
"That influence on the firm will be lasting," Stewart said. "He made this firm not be a stuffy place. He made it a place where people laughed."
Makadon joined Ballard Spahr in 1975 after serving as chief assistant district attorney in Philadelphia from 1970 to 1973 under then-District Attorney Arlen Specter.
Comcast executive and former Edward Rendell political adviser David L. Cohen, who was recruited by Makadon out of law school, said Makadon quickly became hiring partner at Ballard Spahr and was responsible for bringing in some of the firm's most notable attorneys. He then ascended to head of the firm's litigation department, helping build that group into a national presence.
"Arthur was responsible for my entire career," Cohen said. "He recruited me out of law school to Ballard, mentored me as a lawyer [and] introduced me to Rendell."
Cohen said Makadon was one of Rendell's closest advisers when Rendell was mayor of Philadelphia. But Makadon's influence ran even deeper in Philadelphia politics. He was also an adviser to Mayors Bill Green, John Street and Michael Nutter. Makadon advised Rendell on labor issues in the city, advised Street on deals to bring new stadiums to South Philadelphia and advised Nutter on a variety of issues, Cohen said.
"He had more of a sustained influence in 40 years in the city than anyone I can think of," Cohen said. "In the end he was my closest confidant and my best friend."
Cohen said Makadon was the best lawyer he ever met. Any time someone had an issue critical to the health of a company or them personally, Cohen would suggest they talk to Makadon.
Cohen said Makadon had a brusqueness about him, but it wasn't arrogance. He might tell you your idea was the stupidest thing he ever heard, but if you later needed the name of a good doctor or even the most minor of legal advice, Makadon would be there to help, Cohen said.
"Arthur would be the warmest and best friend that person ever had no matter how well he knew the person," Cohen said. "He had an absolute heart of gold."
Cohen described those traits as two different dimensions of a complicated person. Above all his attributes and accomplishments, Cohen said, there was nothing in Makadon's life more important than his family, particularly his daughter, Dr. Claudia Makadon Sauerteig.
"Arthur had high expectations of those he knew, including me," Sauerteig said in a statement. "He modeled that with his intellect, astuteness, and keen sense of judgment. But he also had a sharp, even wild, sense of humor and there wasn't a conversation between us that didn't involve a hearty laugh. The fine balance he struck between working exceptionally hard and playing with abandon has motivated me to live my life the same way."
Philadelphia Bar Association Chancellor Kathleen D. Wilkinson said in a statement Wednesday that the city lost a "true legend of the legal community."
"Arthur Makadon was a pillar of the bar and a highly respected litigator with a tremendous intellect," Wilkinson said. "He had an enduring devotion to the law and a willingness to help all. He will be greatly missed."
Rendell, who rejoined Ballard Spahr after his second term as governor, met Makadon when the two were assistant district attorneys in the '70s.
"He was the same as an assistant DA as he was a month ago," Rendell said. "He was brilliant. He was impetuous. He was irreverent."
Over the years, Rendell said, Makadon became one of his best supporters. While Makadon was never directly involved in politics, Rendell said he was "so instinctively bright" that he always had a needed perspective on political issues.
Rendell said Makadon "feared nothing and no one." He said he would have recommended Makadon for any difficult case.
For those close to Makadon, Rendell said, news of his death is "absolutely devastating."
The two had lunch about a month ago and Rendell said Makadon seemed the same energetic guy who often ran several miles and kept active.
"I always thought Arthur was indestructible," Rendell said, adding Makadon probably thought that too, causing him not to go to the doctor as frequently as he should have.
At their lunch, Makadon was up to his same old strategizing. Rendell said Makadon was trying to get him to run for mayor.
"He told me, 'You could be relevant again,'" Rendell said, laughing.
A firm spokeswoman said funeral services for Makadon will be private. She said there would, however, be a memorial service at a later date. Makadon is survived by his daughter; his brother, Dr. Harvey Makadon; and his longtime companion, Naomi Wyatt.