Lynette Carrington 2014-03-08 00:07:55
As the chair of Briggs and Morgan, Brian Wenger takes every facet of his job seriously. From strategic mergers and acquisitions, family estate planning, corporate finance and mezzanine debt to securities law and specialized professional sports teams transactions, Wenger instills a laser-like focus and true love for his job in all that he does. Although the road getting to where he is today was a bit more of a meandering path, his devotion to clients and addressing their unique legal challenges is one that he continues to embrace on a daily basis. Wenger had some important decisions to make before law school as he juggled two distinct career possibilities. “I struggled with whether I wanted a career in business or a career in lawr. I talked to several of my parents friends about the attributes of both careers,” Wenger stated. “I came to the conclusion that I didn’t need to make a decision before entering graduate school on whether to go into law or business. One wise friend said, “You can always be a business person with a legal degree, but you can’t be a lawyer with only an MBA.” So he went after the law degree. “I’ve concentrated my practice on representing businesses and as time went on, more and more on strategy-related business decisions for clients. It’s been an opportunity to apply the law in a business context that has been most engaging for me,” said Wenger. His career has grown to include some prestigious clients, but throughout some of the more dizzying and massive legal transactions, Wenger always has kept his feet and his heart planted firmly in his community. Key Inspiration & Falling in Love With the Twin Cities Wenger was pleased to find a mentor in his clerkship with a federal judge after law school - someone who truly inspired him. Wenger clerked for the Honorable Eldon Mahon, a federal district judge in Fort Worth, Texas. “The relationship between a clerk and a judge is very special,” Wenger said. “It’s an intimate relationship because you’re working closely together as the judge decides cases that affect the litigant’s life. My judge was a real mentor who helped me think through the many career steps ahead after my clerkship.” After finishing his clerkship, Wenger moved back to the Midwest where he grew up, although he was not interested in returning to his hometown of Detroit. He focused on communities where he might want to live and practice and narrowed the field down to Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and the Twin Cities, where he then applied to various firms. “I liked the Twin Cities the best because of the dynamic business community, strong arts community, great neighborhoods full of families and good public amenities,” explained Wenger. “I liked Briggs and Morgan the best because it had an open atmosphere with a variety of individuals with different styles. It was also a very transparent organization where people provided information and had the opportunity to participate in the direction of the firm. That was my initial impression.” Much to Wenger’s delight, all the positive things that he initially observed about Briggs and Morgan were right on the money. The Twin Cities has been his home since 1988. “My wife and I have raised six children here,” Wenger said. “We both feel very strongly about the community, we’re very involved in the community with a lot of nonprofit organizations. It’s been a wonderful place to raise a family. And, best of all, our children recognize this as well,” Wenger stated. In Service to the Community As Wenger believes in supporting many philanthropic endeavors within his own city, he has involved himself as a board member at his daughter’s former high school, Visitation. He is also involved in The Center for Law and Business at William Mitchell Law School, and the boards of St. Thomas University of Law, The Hill Museum and Manuscript Library, and Jeremiah, which is an organization that helps young women with children who have had difficult situations and gives them a safe learning environment and a college education. Wenger explained, “I also serve on the University of Minnesota foundation board, which oversees the donations made to the University of Minnesota, and as chair of the heart advisory board at the University of Minnesota. We’re raising $100 million to assist in the development of the heart research and clinical care at the University of Minnesota.” He also is proud to serve on the board of the two Catholic seminaries, St. Paul Seminary and St. John Vianney Seminary. The importance of his involvement in various boards has evolved over the years. “The Twin Cities is a great community and I think it’s important that we all try to enhance the environment that we have been given. People can give back in a variety of ways,” Wenger said. “I find that serving on these boards and trying to affect change and improvement at that level is a place where I enjoy participating and hopefully make a contribution.” Wenger also likes that his level of involvement and service is an example to his own children. Getting Sporty… Some Unique Practice Areas Over the course of his career, Wenger has had the chance to work with some high net-worth and high-profile individuals. Because of those interactions, other unique legal experiences have presented themselves throughout the years and Wenger has embraced the opportunities to practice in some areas of law that not many attorneys get the chance to tackle. “I’ve worked for years with the Pohlad family, owners of the Minnesota Twins, so we’ve worked on many projects for them. Then, one of the Pohlad advisors referred me to the Naegele family that owned the Minnesota Wild,” Wenger explained. “Having done work, for example, on stadiums for those two teams, the Vikings selected Briggs to work on their stadium. It evolved from starting with the Twins and then to the Wild and now the Vikings.” Wenger has become quite adept at dealing with very intricate details and complex situations that arise in strategic transactions. “For example, our Briggs team helped with the sale of the Minnesota Wild, representing one of the parties in the sale. For the Twins and the Vikings, Briggs worked on some major transactions such as the building of the stadium,” he said. Wenger readily admits that he’s a huge sports fan. The initial involvement with the Pohlad family eventually led to some other hefty legal transactions. One particular transaction with PepsiCo closed in February 2010. “What happened was that the Pohlad family owned a couple of bottlers,” Wenger explained. “Pepsi and Coke, for example, make the syrup and do all the branding, but there are separate companies that make, sell and deliver the cola. We helped one of those companies evolve from having operations in the Dakotas and the Mississippi Delta to having global operations. In 2010, Pepsi bought that bottler and another large bottler. Pepsi brought them in-house so to speak and our Briggs team worked on that transaction.” Essentially, Pepsi bought its two largest bottlers in the world; a transaction valued at $7.8 billion. “I’ve had a very long career with Pepsi, 20 years or so of working with them in some capacity,” Wenger said. Wenger is quick to add that Briggs’ ability to successfully complete these transactions depends upon an entire team of lawyers. “We have been fortunate to have such a broad range of clients and we are only able to deliver the caliber of service we provide by virtue of Briggs’ breadth of transactional experience and fine people,” Wenger explained. The Commitment to Briggs and Morgan Wenger has been at Briggs for 25 years and is currently the chair of the firm. He served as the former chair of the commercial department from 2006-2011. He is also the former chair of the business law section, a position he held from 2001-2005. Although Wenger may now be playing in the big leagues in some areas of his legal career, he also enjoys the personal touch, working with clients on their family estate planning. He brings together for these families the wide range of legal services necessary to address their needs, including estate planning, governance, business succession and business transactions. Whether on a massive scale or working one-on-one with families and other related advisors, Wenger combines his caring personal touch and his legal expertise to provide legal services that families and large organizations alike continue to rely on year after year.
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