Board Member Spotlight
on Tom Molchan
1. Tell us a little bit about your personal background.
I was born and raised in the Pittsburgh area. I have become a die-hard Phillies fan and an avid Flyers fan, but I have not lost my allegiance to the Steelers. I was a Steelers fan long before they were Super Bowl champs, and always admired their style of play and classy ownership. I received my bachelor’s degree from Penn, where I fell in love with Philly, and went to law school at Columbia, where I did not fall in love with New York. I live in Villanova with my wife Diane. We have two children, Andrew, a senior at Georgetown, and Michelle, a freshman at Penn.
2. What was your first job?
During high school, I worked at a grocery store, doing just about everything. During college summer breaks I worked as a bank teller, having always had an affinity for money. My first job after law school was as an associate in the business department at Schnader, Harrison, Segal & Lewis in Philadelphia.
3. What motivated you to become a lawyer?
I majored in economics and minored in English. I was always drawn to the business world and also considered an MBA or Ph.D in economics, but in the end decided I liked working with words better than numbers. I was also attracted to the discipline and intellectual rigor of law, especially after an economics course in industrial market concentration, which introduced me to antitrust law.
4. Tell us about your in-house experience.
I have practiced in-house for most of my career. I was fortunate enough to be a corporate lawyer in Philadelphia at the time of the breakup of AT&T in 1983. One of the newly-formed regional operating companies, Bell Atlantic, was headquartered here. They were looking for lawyers to handle securities, acquisitions, treasury and finance matters, corporate governance and other matters, so I landed one of the first in-house jobs at a new Fortune 50 company. It was just a tremendous experience, with my getting more responsibility than I could ever hope to get elsewhere. After a few years I became general counsel of a subsidiary which provided information technology services. When Bell Atlantic sold the company in 1995, I served as general counsel of its successor, DecisionOne Corp., which went public a year later. In 2000, I became general counsel of Inacom Corp., another IT services company. I finally realized that I liked food better than technology, so in 2002 I joined ARAMARK Corporation as Senior Vice President and Associate General Counsel, where I oversee the legal affairs of the International, Sports and Entertainment, and Business and Industry groups.
5. What do you find most rewarding about your job?
As an in-house lawyer I have always enjoyed feeling that I was part of the business team, finding solutions to business problems, enforcing the company’s rights and minimizing risks. I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to work in public and private companies, of different sizes, in different industries, at various stages of growth (and sometimes decline). Each has presented a unique experience and opportunity to apply my skills. The variety of work has been amazing. With the current climate of enhanced regulatory scrutiny, the role of in-house counsel has never been more important.
6. Tell us about your position with DELVACCA.
I first joined DELVACCA many years ago, became inactive when I worked in the suburbs and traveled frequently, and then became active again when I joined ARAMARK. I was amazed at how vibrant the organization had become and how much it had grown. I was elected to the Board and then served two years as Treasurer. I served as Second Vice President last year and am currently First Vice President, with responsibility for Sponsorship and Programming.|
7. What do you find most rewarding about your association with DELVACCA?
Although I am committed to ACC’s and DELVACCA’s mission to serve the needs of, and advocate for, the in-house bar, the most rewarding aspect of my association with DELVACCA are the great people I have had the opportunity to meet and work with. It is rare that a professional association can actually have FUN, but with our wine tastings, bowling and billiards outings, Spring Fling – and, yes, CLEs specifically tailored to the needs of in-house counsel – we manage to do it.
8. What do you like to do in your spare time?
My wife and I attend many Phillies games, both home and away – I already have my tickets for Halladay’s debut in DC. I am an avid reader, both fiction and non-fiction, especially works on World War II, economic history, or Russian society. I enjoy classical music, ballet and drama. I serve on the Capital Campaign Committee for the Hope Partnership for Education, a private middle school in one of the most impoverished neighborhoods in Philadelphia. And as I mentioned, I enjoy food and trying new restaurants.
9. What advice do you have for new to in-house counsel?
Learn the company’s business, its competitive strengths and weaknesses, and its culture. Always do what’s right for the company – they’re your client – not necessarily what’s right for you, or your bonus, or your career; in the long run, it will pay off. Be willing to take chances; if the company just wants to take the safe road they don’t need your judgment. Learn to triage risk and fight for the things that really make a difference. Above all, be respectful to others, honest and ethical – the golden rule is always a good one to follow.