From GC to CEO // In-house counsel guide

While most chief executives rise from the ranks of finance or operations, a growing number of top bosses once acted as their company’s general counsel. Here are six North American leaders who made the leap

By Dawn Calleja

On Tuesday December 3rd, 2013


Gregory Blatt
CEO of IAC/InterActive Corp. (2010–present)
Blatt spent six years as general counsel at the U.S. Internet conglomerate (whose businesses include The Daily Beast and College Humor) before succeeding IAC founder Barry Diller.

Kenneth Frazier
CEO of Merck and Co. (2011–present)
The Harvard Law grad spent 35 years working with U.S. pharmaceutical company Merck, first as external counsel and eventually as GC in 1999. Five years later, the company pulled its arthritis drug Vioxx, which was found to increase heart attack and stroke rates.

Kathleen Taylor
CEO of Four Seasons Hotels (2010–2012)
Taylor joined the hotel chain’s in-house department in 1989, became general counsel three years later and was chosen by founder Issy Sharp to succeed him as CEO. She was just named chair of RBC, the first woman to lead the board of a Big Five bank in Canada.

Anne Giardini
President of Weyerhaeuser Co.’s Canadian subsidiary (2008–present)
Giardini joined the lumber giant in 1994 and was named general counsel and vice-president 12 years later.

Timothy Mayopoulos
CEO of Fannie Mae (2012–present)
Mayopoulos became general counsel of the mortgage behemoth in 2009, shortly after it was taken over by the U.S. government in the wake of the housing collapse.

Don Schroeder
CEO of Tim Hortons (2008–2011)
Schroeder started off representing Tim’s franchisees back in the 1970s and eventually became one himself before joining head office, later making his way up to GC.

Pro tip

Wooded ladder“There’s a tendency for a person with legal training to provide advice that is very conservative. If there’s a crisis, they’ll say, ‘Don’t say anything.’ That might be good legal advice, but it might be bad business advice. If you restrict yourself to legal advice in the purest sense, you’ll be limiting your ability to contribute to the broader business issues.”
– Hugh Arnold, academic director of the Business Leadership Program for In-House Counsel at Rotman School of Management.


This story is part of our in-depth guide to in-house counsel.