Barry Medintz | Executive Profile | ATLANTA TREND
The Best of Both Worlds
Atlanta Executive Leverages Legal Expertise and Business Skills for Recall
Barry Medintz first started thinking about becoming a lawyer after working on Capitol Hill as a summer intern for Georgia Senator Sam Nunn in 1988. This feeling was solidified when he returned to work as a staff assistant for Senator Wyche Fowler shortly thereafter. “It seemed like everyone working on the Hill were lawyers,” Barry says, “and I really thought I wanted to be legislative counsel for a US Senator or to a Senate Committee.”
A bit different for someone known today as one of the most respected business lawyers in Atlanta. Barry is the Global Vice President and General Counsel of Recall Corporation, a nearly $900 million worldwide data storage company enjoying rapid growth across 23 countries on 5 continents.
Born in Atlanta, Barry attended Lakeside High School before going to the University of Wisconsin where he majored in History and Political Science. Returning to Atlanta for law school at Emory, his first job as an attorney was with Perkins Coie in Washington, D.C. “I was still thinking about working on the Hill,” he says, “and joining a large national law firm a few blocks from the Capitol and the White House seemed like a good idea.” But he soon found himself working primarily on commercial litigation and product liability matters and discovered that he enjoyed the work. His clients included US West, the regional Bell telephone company based in Denver, and The Boeing Company in which he worked on aviation liability claims.
But it was the passage of the Telecom Act in 1996 that put Barry fully into the business world and the work he did next that started him on the path to becoming the businessman – lawyer that he is known as today. One of his clients at US West asked Barry to come out to Denver for two weeks to help negotiate a deal with AT&T. That two week assignment lasted for two and a half years. Barry was dedicated to the internal US West business team; negotiating a number of regulatory agreements with AT&T and MCI across 14 western states. When agreement with these carriers could not be reached in a particular state, he would then represent US West before the state’s Public Service Commission which would hear and resolve the dispute. “I discovered that I really enjoyed working in-house, which allowed me to understand the client’s business and objectives far better than being its outside counsel. I felt vested in an outcome in a much more profound way.” At the end of this two and a half year assignment, Barry knew that he wanted to focus his career on becoming general counsel of a major business and a key member of its management team.
With that in mind, Barry returned to Atlanta in 1999 and joined The Coca-Cola Company as a Trademark Licensing attorney. The iconic brand was an excellent fit, but the timing turned out to be regrettable. Shortly after joining, the Atlanta company experienced its worst PR disaster in decades over allegations that its flagship product was somehow contaminated (which it wasn’t, of course), following reports of Belgian school children falling ill after drinking Coke from their schools’ vending machines. This led to the banning – for a time – of Coke in a number of European countries. Revenue growth slowed and the stock began to fall from an all-time high. For the first time ever, Coke was forced to significantly restructure all departments, including Legal, and Barry realized that advancement at the soft drink maker would be slow in coming. Consequently, when Motorola contacted him about a position, he was open to pursue the opportunity.
In January 2001, Barry became the Senior Legal Counsel for Motorola’s Energy Systems Group. “I was essentially the general counsel,” for Motorola’s $600 million global battery and accessory division based in Lawrenceville, GA. He handled a variety of commercial contract matters and disputes, mergers and acquisitions, product liability claims and employment issues. But he also spent a lot of time overseas – upwards of 50% at times - working with the group’s regional general managers in Dublin, Singapore and Beijing, along with negotiating supplier contracts in Asia, handling customer disputes in Europe, and quality issues with factories in Malaysia and Brazil. “When you are dealing with a customer like Siemens anywhere in the world, the numbers are large and the issues are usually serious,” says Barry. But, he developed a knack for resolving issues quickly and without litigation. He also became a key member of the management team, participating in senior business meetings and counseling his clients on all aspects of the business, not just legal matters. “Most companies don’t have the luxury of large senior staffs, so it was expected that I weigh in on strategic and operational issues, not just look after the division’s legal affairs.” In 2005, Barry became the attorney for Motorola’s High Growth Market Region, a nearly $4 billion division which focused on marketing and selling Motorola phones in the Middle East, Africa, SE Asia and Australia/New Zealand.
Working out of Atlanta, he was still spending a lot of time on the road making monthly trips to at least one of these territories. Most of the time, he was negotiating with local carriers and distributors of Motorola’s phones and accessories, including the immensely popular “RAZR” device. He continued to bridge the role between legal counsel and business advisor, and quickly earned the respect of the Region’s president and finance director for his business advice as well as legal counseling. “A good idea to support a key objective can come from any source if you understand the business and markets that you are in, and I was glad to be part of the Region’s success.” After nearly 2 years, the company wanted him to move to the corporate headquarters and concentrate on the Distributor Channel and the Americas Region.
“The company wanted me in Chicago,” says Barry, “and my boss wanted me in Chicago – but I didn't want to move so I reluctantly agreed.” Months went by with friendly questions and reminders to Barry on his move – he stalled as long as he could. Finally, Barry’s boss issued an ultimatum – be in Chicago by the end of the year (2006) or think about another job. At a few minutes past 10:00 pm on December 31, Barry sent a text to his boss after landing in Chicago and said, “I’m here.”
For the next two years, Barry focused on distributor customers in Hong Kong, India and Europe as well as major US customers such as Verizon and AT&T. Throughout this time, he had been serving on Motorola’s Records Management Council. The Council evaluated and overhauled Motorola’s records retention program and looked at replacing its vendor for document storage services. One potential vendor was Recall Corporation. Starting in 2009, Barry began working on the team preparing the spinoff of the Motorola cell phone division. Although he had worked on numerous merger and acquisition deals in the past, this one was huge. It consumed a significant amount of his time in 2009 and 2010.
During the summer of 2010, Barry learned that a recruiter back home in Atlanta was searching for a new Global General Counsel on behalf of Recall Corporation. Barry remembered Recall from his Records Management Council work and was interested in returning home with his wife to raise their daughter. Recall wanted a senior commercial lawyer with a strong international background and a sharp business sense. With his extensive overseas experience and reputation as a commercial attorney who could make deals happen and solve problems quickly while helping business groups grow, he seemed like a natural fit. The timing was perfect, and Barry’s interview with Recall’s president, Elton Potts, went very well. “Elton is a very dynamic leader who knows Recall’s business cold,” says Barry, “and he wanted a proactive legal counsel, not a deal killer who would throw up road blocks. They also couldn’t sit in their office and wait for things to happen – they had to be immersed in the business and be a partner to all the key groups to help the company meet its goals.” Things worked out well and Barry started at Recall in December of 2010.
Barry spent the first six months at Recall learning the business and traveling to company locations and customer meetings around the globe – the president wanted him to get to know his internal company clients, and it wouldn’t happen on conference calls. “Elton and I share the view that you don’t build a relationship over the phone – you build it over dinner,” says Barry, “and it’s true.” These meetings helped Barry to proactively represent the company and form effective relationships with its key leaders around the world.
As Global Vice President and General Counsel, Barry works out of Recall’s worldwide headquarters in Atlanta as a member of the Recall Executive Committee. He loves the work, even when, despite his best efforts to be proactive, something pops up. “I like the challenge,” says Barry. “Everyday is something different – a strike in Brazil, a flood in Thailand that threatens your facility and staff, a company to acquire in Europe, a dispute with an Australian customer or an urgent negotiation with a vendor right here in Atlanta – you face it all and deal with it as effectively as possible.”
Barry is fortunate to have earned the respect of his management colleagues. His president says that Barry has the great combination of being an excellent lawyer and a great business partner. “I rely on him more as a business partner because I can trust that he has all the legal issues well under control,” says Potts. His CFO, Allison Aden, concurs, saying that Barry is not just a key part of the management team but someone from whom “I can get great support and call at any hour of the day or night.”
Barry Medintz has been married for almost seven years and has two children, ages three years and three months. He lives near Chastain Park and enjoys jogging around the park, tennis and softball, and spending as much time as he can with family and friends. Ballet classes with his daughter is a favorite, along with dinner and movie with his wife, Ali.
Is Recall still exciting after almost a year and a half? “You can’t help but be excited,” says Barry. “This company has grown by nearly 50% in the last five years and we hope to double that in the next five years. Recall has tremendous potential. To be part of that is very rewarding. We’ve been going through the process of being sold by our parent company (Australia-based Brambles Ltd) and I am looking forward to the next chapter in Recall’s history.
Barry’s great personality and easygoing demeanor has been a wonderful asset for him in both his personal and professional life. “I’m not a high maintenance guy,” says Barry, “I don't ‘demand’ and certainly am not the type that is a challenge to manage. We’re all working together and my president has enough to focus on.”
Secret to Success:
Don’t Turn Down Opportunities –
I didn’t realize that when I accepted the opportunity to serve on the Motorola Records Management Council it would actually be hugely beneficial down the road in landing the job at Recall. Same thing with taking on the High Growth Market Region from Atlanta for Motorola (and the unique international experience that presented). While sometimes “opportunities” is a polite way of describing a thankless task, as one advances in their career, opportunities typically become career enhancing and you turn them down at your peril.
By Robert Green
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