We tried — we really did. We aggressively solicited reader comments about S&C M&A partner Eric Krautheimer, one of the principal players in Aaron Charney v. Sullivan & Cromwell, to see if he could be made anywhere near as interesting a character as his colleague, Alexandra Korry (at right).
The answer: NO. This comment is representative of many others:
Eric is gruff and abrupt and does not suffer fools or mistakes lightly. I’ve heard him yell and I’ve seen him rant and rave. But at the end of the day he is a genuinely good person who deserves better than being dragged through the mud in this frivolous suit.
We tried to turn Krautheimer into a divo; we tried. But at the end of the day, the dramatic possibilities just aren’t there.
Some folks are rock stars, and other people aren’t. Some people are Scalias, and some people are Souters. It’s that simple.
So back to our favorite S&C partner: Alexandra Korry, the Queen of Mergers and Acquisitions, who most definitely IS a rock star. We love her to the ends of the earth.
After the jump, we discuss this fascinating article about her, from Corporate Board Member Magazine.
Yes, Corporate Board Member Magazine — which narrowly loses out to Private Equity Magazine for sexiest periodical. Who knew?
So here’s the article, by Myles Callum, from the July/August 2006 issue of the magazine. The article text appears in block quotes, with our commentary following.
Corporate Board Member July/Aug 2006
She’s Not Kidding Around
by Myles Callum
Alexandra Korry, of Sullivan & Cromwell’s New York City office, has successfully handled some of the toughest merger deals. She’s worked with giants—and sometimes troubled giants—including Adelphia Communications, Eastman Kodak, Microsoft, Philips Electronics, and UBS. One secret of her success, she says, is that she’s the mother of two: “Women who have children tend to know how to handle potential conflicts quite well. If you can handle situations with toddlers, you can translate those skills into negotiation sessions.”
This is exactly why we find Korry, as well as many other high-powered women and mothers in the legal world, so fascinating. There’s a delicious tension that exists between being a bad-ass corporate lawyer or litigatrix, and a warm and nurturing mother. This is, for example, what made the character of Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada so interesting.
Korry, 47, is the daughter of Edward Korry, a former U.S. ambassador to Chile. The diplomatic equivalent of an Army brat, she had a peripatetic childhood that included being born in London and living in such diverse locales as Ethiopia, Chile, New York City, and Washington, D.C.
Some commenters wondered whether Korry was related to the late Ambassador Korry. There’s your answer. As the daughter of an ambassador, presumably Korry grew up always getting her way. This may be one reason she’s so demanding towards associates who work for her.
After graduating from Harvard, she worked as a journalist for the Washington Post; after that, while a student at the London School of Economics, she was with Newsweek. Next she got some background in commercial banking as a financial analyst for Chemical Bank, and then attended Duke University School of Law, where she met her husband, Robin Panovka, now a real estate attorney in mergers and acquisitions at Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz.
Interesting! We wondered about their romance, since they’re a somewhat odd pairing. We’ve met Robin Panovka, when we were at Wachtell Lipton, and he struck us as low-key, mild-mannered, and very pleasant.
In her own work, mostly in mergers and acquisitions, Korry’s practice areas include corporate governance, environmental issues, financial institutions, intellectual property and technology, and private equity.
Her experience with her two daughters—Rebecca, 12, and Sarah, 6—has led Korry to conclude that “mothering and dealmaking are both arts. Basically, in both, you’re trying to get to a win-win situation. The best way to win in negotiating is to make everybody feel like they got something—even if you haven’t really given away very much at all. And I find it’s almost exactly the same with children. If you make your child think that they’ve won, they’ll be happy. You want people to feel like they’ve won a lot, even if they have only won a little. This is true of toddlers too. And you don’t want them to feel like you’ve won too much.”
Fascinating! The secret to Alexandra Korry’s success: she treats Biglaw partners and corproate chieftains as toddlers. (And maybe her associates, too.)
In thinking about the topic, Korry has jotted down some key points. “I made a list of things that work with both being a mother and being a negotiator. Patience is at the top of the list—you need that with children and in a conference room. Then, listening carefully. In a negotiation, I want to observe and figure out who are the real decision-makers. I try to read body language. I remember once dealing with a lawyer who was making an incredibly impassioned argument about some issue. Unfortunately, sitting right next to him was a client whose expression clearly indicated that he thought his lawyer was off base. This helped me figure out what the soft points were going to be—what’s going to work with somebody versus what’s not. Again, it’s the same thing with a child. You’re trying to figure out what it is that makes your child tick.”
Excellent stuff. Korry is clearly a very talented attorney, which is why we admire her so much. She can get away with what she gets away with because she’s that good. REALLY good. Incredible talent gets, and deserves, a wide berth.
Another quality high on Korry’s list: a sense of humor. “When parents freak out with their children,” she says, “it really doesn’t help. ‘I want you to do this!’ You start making some loud demand, banging on the table and making your child do it—it’s not going to get your child to where you want. And similarly in a conference room, standing and banging your hand on the table does not get you to win. Whenever Sarah had a meltdown tantrum, I would just wait for it to pass, our eyes would meet as she tested me, and then I would crack a joke or somehow make light of it. I wanted to provide the mechanism by which she could give up without feeling defeated. I try to do that in negotiations too. Recently, in a very tense negotiation where the businesspeople on both sides were getting very angry with each other—so much so that the deal appeared to be at risk—I cracked a self-deprecating joke while making my client’s point. This provided what I think was a necessary breather. When you are often up very late and have had rounds and rounds of argument, a little levity always goes a long way.”
Now we’re not so sure about this. Anecodatal evidence suggests that Korry is not averse to engaging in the law firm equivalent of banging on tables. But wait, let’s read on…
In the corporate world, Korry says, you also have to learn when to be tough and when not to. “Many people in my world probably think I’m pretty tough. But I think I’m very careful about when I choose to be tough.” She offers an anecdote from parenthood: “When Sarah was a preschooler, she could be terribly stubborn. She’d say, ‘I’m not going to school!’ One morning I said, ‘Would you please get dressed?’ But she wouldn’t get dressed. At first I tried to cajole her and give her all the good reasons why she’d want to go. But nothing worked, and finally I had to put my foot down. I said, ‘We’re going. I’m taking you out of the car, and if you want to go naked, you can go naked. If you want to bring your clothes, bring your clothes.’” And what happened? “She got dressed, because I picked her up naked and started carrying her out—as I fought back the tears.”
We love it! Alexandra Korry is a bad-ass, and she KNOWS it: “Many people in my world probably think I’m pretty tough.”
With children as in negotiating, says Korry, “you have to keep your eyes on the prize. When Rebecca was in her last year of preschool, the teacher was having the kids do ABC workbooks at the beginning of the year. Rebecca balked at that. She preferred to walk around and observe what others were doing. When the teachers informed me, thinking I would be upset that she wasn’t doing her ABCs, I told them to leave her be, that she would learn her ABCs in due course. Now, at 12, she is a voracious reader, reading adult fiction, and last summer she wrote a musical on her own about Anne Boleyn. So I think we did okay. The analogy: Often in negotiations you need the patience to let others go where they need to go on various issues. Keep focused on what’s important, and you will do fine.”
Alexandra Korry strikes us as one shrewd negotiator — smart and tough, but also reasonable and accommodating when necessary. Had she been involved in S&C’s settlement discussions with Aaron Charney, maybe it never would have seen the light of day.
Three cheers for Alexandra Korry!!!
She’s Not Kidding Around [Corporate Board Member Magazine]