Top lawyer to sport a new role
William Newlin, who led the law firm of Buchanan Ingersoll for more than a generation, is departing to take an executive position with Dick’s Sporting Goods, the Downtown firm said Tuesday.
A high-profile civic leader as well, Newlin was tapped to be executive vice president and chief administrative officer of the sporting goods retail chain he helped take public a year ago. Newlin will steer Dick’s strategic direction and “continue to grow our business,” said Dick’s Chairman Edward Stack.
“This happened very rapidly. What turned my head was the business, the people and their business model,” said Newlin, 62, who is to start in a few weeks.
“It’s been one of my driving instincts over the years to grow companies,” he said. “The specific opportunity to do that at Dick’s convinced me I should accept.”
Newlin declined to describe the terms of Dick’s financial offer.
While surprising that one of Pittsburgh’s best known attorneys would trade legal briefs for sports merchandise, Newlin has gone to bat for Pittsburgh’s pro sports teams several times.
Newlin helped to keep the Pirates from leaving while the city’s chief adviser from 1994 to 1996 and helped to select the PNC Park site. Three years later, the attorney brokered the sale of the then-bankrupt Penguins to hockey star Mario Lemieux.
“Bill is a unique person,” said Larry Werner, communications consultant and ex-managing director of public relations firm Ketchum/Pittsburgh. “He’s as much of a businessman as he is a lawyer. I’m sure that’s why Dick’s wanted him.”
Dick’s is the second-largest full-line sporting goods retailer in the nation in terms of size. It operates 151 stores in 27 states, primarily in the eastern United States and posted 2002 revenue of about $1.3 billion. Another 10 stores are slated to be open this quarter.
In terms of profitability, Dick’s is on top of the game in inventory turnaround, return on invested capital and profit margin. Since it went public last October at $12 per share, Dick’s stock has tripled in price. The shares closed yesterday at $37.99, up $1.14.
Newlin has long been active in local companies and civic enterprises. He chairs the executive committee and sits on the board of Kennametal Inc., a high-tech industrial tool maker in Unity, Westmoreland County . The attorney also is on the boards of software developer Black Box Corp. and investment banking and financial brokerage Parker/Hunter.
“I think it’s a logical extension in this stage of his life,” said Parker/Hunter Chairman Robert Kampmeinert, who has known Newlin since 1972.
“Bill is a lawyer, but some lawyers discontinue practicing law at some point,” Kampmeinert said. “He’s been very active in other affairs, including venture capital.”
Newlin’s successor at Buchanan will be selected in the next week or two, said Chief Operating Officer Thomas VanKirk. He will oversee the firm until Buchanan partners vote on the advisory committee’s nominees for chairman and other top officers.
Since becoming firm’s CEO in 1980, Newlin helped grow Buchanan from 78 lawyers to 365 currently. The firm is now Pittsburgh’s third biggest and one of the nation’s 100 largest. Aside from roughly 180 lawyers in Pittsburgh, the firm has lawyers in 13 other offices, including New York, Washington, D.C., and Dublin, Ireland.
At the firm, Newlin is known for practicing corporate law, concentrating on securities and mergers and acquisitions. Buchanan handled Dick’s initial public stock offering in 2002, which raised $93.5 million.
Newlin also co-founded the Pittsburgh Venture Funds in 1986 and was a founding director of the Pittsburgh Technology Council in 1983.
“We hold Bill Newlin in the highest regard for his pioneering work in helping to create a thriving technology community in the Pittsburgh region, said Steven Zylstra, CEO of the technology council. “We expect to continue our relationship with him.”
Newlin said he expected to remain on as many civic and corporate boards as his schedule would allow.
William R. Newlin
Position — Attorney, chairman/CEO of Buchanan Ingersoll
Transition — EVP/chief administrative officer Dick’s Sporting Goods
Age — 62
Residence — Sewickley
Other roles — Board director at Kennametal, Black Box and Parker/Hunter, board member of Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, Honorary British Consul, Pittsburgh (named 1997)