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2018 Top 10 30-Somethings: Steve Gangemi

Top Ten 30 Somethings
Steve Gangemi never lets an opportunity pass him by. When he received a notice that Hilton was a claimant in a class action settlement, he got the idea to see if Hilton could capitalize on this opportunity and similar litigation.

Stephen GangemiUndeterred when he was told "the juice isn't worth the squeeze," he forged ahead, buoyed by a strong relationship with the head of Hilton's supply management company, which obtains favorable prices for linens, food, and other hotel necessities — like the ubiquitous LCD televisions in the lobbies and rooms.

His persistence first came to fruition a few years ago following a nationwide settlement among the manufacturers of the LCD screens amidst allegations that they had colluded to artificially increase prices.

Every person who bought an LCD during the relevant period of time was entitled to compensation. Combined with other recovery efforts, the company has recovered more than US$25 million in the past three years, and more than US$6 million in 2017 alone.

"It's all about finding the right partnerships," Gangemi stresses. "It has been low hanging fruit; taking an area where a lot of people wrote it off and finding ways that we can maximize value by taking advantage of the size of our system."

He has also maximized value by subtraction. When Gangemi first joined Hilton, the hospitality company used more than 350 outside counsel firms to render legal services. Again capitalizing on Hilton's size, with the guidance and support of his senior leadership, he recognized that Hilton was not maximizing the benefit of its legal spend.

Additionally, he noticed that not all firms were providing the same level of service, so he developed an electronic scoring system that allowed the legal department to evaluate each outside firm based on a fixed set of criteria, including value of services, diversity, quality of communication and work product, and ability to embrace Hilton's values and culture.

By concentrating its spend on a few firms that had truly adopted Hilton's culture, and were, therefore, natural partners, Gangemi says they were able "to find firms that could play well in the sandbox with us and each other."

After a full-blown RFP — which gave Hilton an idea of every firm's footprint and their ability to assist in the hospitality industry — the company found that firms fell into two groups: multipurpose firms that could do a wide variety of work and specialist firms that were the top of the game in a niche practice area. For example, a litigation firm that could partner with a firm specializing in benefits law could provide Hilton the value it was seeking.

Diversity was another major factor. Hilton, which operates in more than 100 countries, wants to hire firms that not only employ diverse lawyers but also work with diverse clientele. "It was really trying to find a way where we could get some thought diversity, which would give us the best results and the best legal services," he clarifies.

While the convergence process remains an ongoing project, Hilton has seen some success. Hilton reduced the number of firms to about 40 over the last two and a half years. During that period, Hilton spun off several of its real estate and timeshare holdings and is now primarily a franchise and management company.

As the company's needs change, Gangemi and his leadership team constantly reevaluate its law firm suppliers. With the company's expansion, it may need a law firm that is familiar with remote parts of Africa or a different practice area — a need that wasn't included in the initial convergence model. He is embarking on the 2.0 version of the Global Panel Counsel Initiative, so that when new opportunities arise, the company is prepared to meet them.

"Part of my life has been structured on seizing an opportunity, not necessarily knowing what it's going to be like once I get there but just sort of trying it," he reflects. It's an approach that has produced results for Hilton — and Gangemi.

More 2018 Top 10 30-Somethings

Sheila Bangalore

Christopher Y. Chan

Mary Gritzmacher

Paul Lanois

Olga V. Mack

Shelly Paioff

Julie Ryan

Diana Toman

Greg Wu

About the Author

Joshua H. Shields is the managing editor of the Association of Corporate Counsel.

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