Press Release

John Dadakis, Personal General Counsel to U.S. Corporate Elite, Joins New York Office

6/2/2003
New York (June 2, 2003) -- Morrison & Foerster LLP has added a major wealth-management practice with a group of attorneys who have moved to the New York office led by John D. Dadakis. Mr. Dadakis brings a national private client practice that manages and protects the assets of an elite group of Fortune 500 executives and successful entrepreneurs in private business.

The aggregate net-worth of the group's clients exceeds $8.5 billion. Additionally, Mr. Dadakis works closely in devising products and strategies with Merrill Lynch, CIBC and other financial institutions. He is a member of the Merrill Lynch Attorney Advisory Board that serves Merrill's private client group.

Mr. Dadakis joins MoFo as a partner, along with two associates, Scott H. Jacobs and Rachel E. Deutsch, as well as a dedicated client service manager, David G. Newson. All had been with Clifford Chance in New York. Their group complements MoFo's existing West Coast private client lawyers and allows the firm to provide wealth management legal advice on a bi-coastal and international basis.

"John has brought a great opportunity to the firm," said Keith Wetmore, chair of Morrison & Foerster in San Francisco. "We are pleased to offer a new level of private client services to top executives of our client base. In addition, John brings valuable strategic relationships with some of the leading financial institutions and corporations in the country."

Mr. Dadakis's 300-plus clients are in the upper echelons of business -- executives at major public companies and entrepreneurs whose family-held fortunes were made in numerous industries, from publishing to high-tech hardware. Most have liquid assets of at least $10 million, while a core group of around 25 have minimum assets of $25 million each. This group constitutes the Family Heritage Practice, a strategic estate and wealth management service providing clients broad legal expertise as well as virtual around the clock support and life-consulting.

The level of representation demanded by Mr. Dadakis's private clients goes well beyond financial matters into areas of social and human capital, rounding out what he calls the three elements of wealth. To be sure, the group may advise on such matters as helping clients structure a corporate entity to purchase and manage a jet, or divest of certain assets, or devise long-term tax strategies. But much of Mr. Dadakis's advice migrates into broader areas of family relationships, psychology, and social and civic goals. Some examples include:

  • Transferring venture capital/private equity holdings to offspring and structuring the transfer of wealth through vehicles such as generation-skipping transfers and off-shore trusts;
  • Devising charitable vehicles to further the family's philanthropic intentions as well as to educate younger generations in responsible giving;
  • Utilizing special limited liability companies to instill the family's values pertaining to wealth transference.
"When you have a certain level of wealth to manage, thinking of your legacy takes on a lot of complications," Mr. Dadakis said. "Not only keeping the government from taxing too much of it, but also, how you provide for successor generations and how you make sure they responsibly handle the assets and any business responsibility you give them. What kind of social contributions do you want to make? The human and psychological elements are as much a part of our practice as the financial -- they're all intertwined."

The private client group also offers a level of service that far outpaces that given by traditional trusts & estates lawyers. "We typically act as our client's personal general counsel and point person, coordinating their core group of advisors," said Mr. Dadakis. Given that many of his clients have personal assets exceeding the enterprise value of many NASDAQ companies, and include ownership of private businesses and often their own foundations, a general counsel is precisely what is needed.

"Most of our clients are still actively engaged executives facing corporate governance issues that often overlap with their personal lives, especially since many of them sit on corporate boards," Mr. Dadakis said. "We stay very proactive in helping them confront governance and compensation issues, especially given the level of scrutiny that senior executives are drawing right now in these areas, not only from the IRS but also the SEC and other federal agencies and regulators. It's our job to help our clients avoid the problems that have come to haunt a number of executives and business owners."

Indeed, Mr. Dadakis has been busy designing effective senior executive compensation packages in light of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and changing tax laws.

Mr. Dadakis sees a unique opportunity at MoFo. "Many law firms have left the private client business," he said. "Or they limit themselves to taxes, wills and estate planning, but not much else -- certainly not my approach. I am fortunate to have found Morrison & Foerster, which has a group of highly capable individual-client attorneys in New York and San Francisco. We look forward to establishing MoFo among the very few firms that have an impact nationally in wealth management."

Mr. Dadakis is also the founder and president of Attorneys for Family-Held Enterprises (http://www.afhe.com), an international association of attorneys practicing in the areas of corporate, litigation, taxation, and trusts & estates who provide multi-disciplinary legal counsel and advice to privately-held enterprises, their owner-managers, and family members.

Mr. Dadakis, 51, is a 1973 graduate of Johns Hopkins University. He received his JD from Fordham University in 1976. He is admitted to the Bar in California, Florida and New York, and lives in Bedford, New York with his wife, Patty, and son, Ryan.

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