“The Corporate LiveWire Awards represent the pinnacle of business achievement, championing the best in their respective fields. The awards cover the most important sectors of business, from finance advisories and funding providers to law firms and specialist advisory companies that deal with mergers and acquisitions. The culmination of the awards is the Global Award, recognizing businesses and professionals of every type that have proven their excellence throughout the year and years past.” — Corporate LiveWire
Corporate Governance — USA: Deborah Hicks Midanek, Solon Group
Investment Funds — USA: Deborah Hicks Midanek, Solon Group
Inevitably, Deborah finds a way to bring people together by focusing on the necessary work and responsibilities of the board, starting with first principles as to WHY everyone is there, and what it would take to make the company successful. Though Deborah questions herself and others rigorously, she maintains a warm and nurturing approach, including when she takes tough positions.
Over the years I have worked with Deborah, I have had the pleasure of getting to know her personally and to meet others who have worked with Deborah in some of her many roles as a director. Others comment as I do on how Deborah’s positive attitude and insistence on treating all parties with respect, her constant consideration of ideas presented by all, no matter how the ideas were packaged, or what the motivation, is a hallmark of her behavior. This respect and open-mindedness combined with her insistence on discerning and following the path toward doing the right thing for all, has infused every role Deborah has had as a director, manager, and human being. This trait has influenced Deborah’s strong record of achievement for others.
For Deborah, serving as an independent director is a calling. She always brings rare commitment to the role, giving unstintingly of her time and expertise, which is broad. I have often asked Deborah, why she bothers. The answer is always the same — because it needs to be done.
— Sara L. Chenetz, Partner, Perkins Coie, LLP
I became acquainted with her when she served as an active, indeed leading member of the Board of Trustees at Warren Wilson College, the institution for which I serve as Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College. Deborah served the Board tirelessly, taking on important work, even the most challenging work, because it needed to be done in order for the school to flourish. I was impressed in my earliest meetings with Deborah’s tenacity and her willingness to approach difficult conversations.
Quite importantly, Deborah served as advisor and confidante to two presidents, and various board and senior faculty and staff of the college. In this role, she helped coach numerous senior leaders through trying times, a skill Deborah has employed elsewhere with success, as well.
In summary, Deborah was always active and alert, had a strong and deep understanding of the college, its offerings, and its financial and operating reality, and above all its extraordinary culture, which she cherished and to which her values contributed. Her actions were practical, effective, well informed, and driven by her sense of calling. Deborah’s work on behalf of Warren Wilson College cannot be overestimated, and her service legacy lingers here, strengthening the very ethos of the campus daily.
— Paula K. Garrett, Vice President for Academic Affairs, and Dean of the College, Warren Wilson College
Deborah is an exemplary director having served on fourteen corporate and six nonprofit boards since 1990. Deborah is known for her turnaround expertise and usually is asked to take on the most difficult assignments in her board service.
She has a high sense of obligation and demonstrates a keen sense of urgency in her leadership roles. She is very direct, demonstrating candor and openness to all views. Her vast business experience is much appreciated and her suggestions are constructive and collaborative. Her broad number of experiences makes her valuable in almost any board situation.
— Steve Odland, President & CEO, Committee for Economic Development
Deborah has had a remarkable and unique career in restructuring and corporate governance that started when she assumed a leadership role in the Drexel Burnham Lambert’s shareholder’s committee, representing thousands of Drexel employees in the bankruptcy, and subsequently joined Drexel’s Board of Directors while the company was still in bankruptcy proceedings.
In my experience, Deborah’s boardroom participation is constructive and collaborative. She demonstrates a keen awareness of the interpersonal dynamics in the boardroom as well as the business considerations, and guides to consensus with a deft and respectful approach to everyone’s views. Her confidence comes from her considerable and highly varied board and business experience, yet she is never arrogant or condescending. She is unfailingly generous with her time and insights, and is always available to solve problems and resolve conflicts.
Deborah is always well prepared for board meetings and brings remarkable insights to business problems gleaned from years of working in high-stakes, high-conflict situations. She is practical and focused on achieving the best outcomes for all stakeholders.
— Debra Perry, Member, National Association of Corporate Directors
Korn/Ferry International (NYSE:KFY) (Chair, Audit Committee)
BofA Funds (Chair, Governance Committee)
The Sanford C. Bernstein Fund (Chair, Governance Committee)
"I was able to witness first hand her deeply held philosophy of transparency in all her responsibilities"
Deborah began her storied career as director during the Drexel Burnham Lambert Group, Inc. Chapter 11. She became director as a result of organizing the shareholders (employees) of the private company to seek recognition from the Bankruptcy Court as an Equity Committee, and was subsequently elected Chairman of that committee. In that position she insisted on a board of directors dominated by independents, thus assuring shareholders, creditors, the courts, regulators, and all stakeholders that a Trustee appointment was not necessary. This action served to preserve billions of dollars of shareholder value that would likely otherwise have been lost.
I first worked with Deborah in my role as Chairman of the Audit Committee for The Solon Funds, of which Deborah was founder and CEO. In that capacity I was able to witness first hand her deeply held philosophy of transparency in all her responsibilities. Her meticulous preparation of materials for the Board were designed to not only exceed SEC requirements but to ensure thorough explanation and understanding of the occasionally complex structured products in which the funds invested. This was not only a demonstration of Deborah’s commitment to transparency; it was clearly a contributing factor to the success of the Solon complex.
In summary, I believe that Deborah’s extraordinary history as a director is built on a deep foundation of integrity, tenacity, dedication, clear and unwavering commitment to maximizing financial outcomes, and a consistent respect for all participants in the process. Her accomplishments along the way, quite simply, speak for themselves.
— Sarah Smith, Controller and Chief Accounting Officer, The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc.
"Deborah’s history of achievements reflects the impeccable standards she has set for herself as well as for others"
Throughout my dealing with her, Deborah has demonstrated highest ethical standards on both a personal and professional level, never losing sight of the best interest of the funds as a whole, even when taking the most appropriate course of action resulted in significant personal inconvenience and sacrifice. In the matter that involved teams of professionals across a number of jurisdictions, Deborah’s candor and fairness were praised by all, and her openness to the opinions of others was essential in the ultimate success of the restructuring of the funds. Deborah repeatedly exhibited courage and leadership under duress, in face of litigation in the USA, Cayman and the British Virgin Islands, always choosing the action that is best for the funds and their shareholders in the face of countervailing pressures she was facing from her fellow board members as well as externally.
In a multi-disciplinary and multi-jurisdictional team it was very apparent that Deborah valued the team performance over her individual performance. She was always very inclusive, taking advice on board and considering all options before choosing the most appropriate course of action that brought the highest benefit to the funds as a whole. I have never witnessed Deborah displaying even a hint of ego in my dealings with her. She has the ability to easily facilitate superior board performance, bringing out the best in fellow directors as well as other service providers. She has a rare ability to assimilate large volumes of information, including information pertaining to jurisdictions and subject-matters she had no prior experience with, and narrow in to the very heart of the issues that need to be addressed.
Deborah easily forms constructive working relationships and collaborates with other team members, whilst always encouraging independent attitude in each member. She creates a comfortable environment in which each team member is able to perform at their highest standards. She is a natural leader that brings out the best in those around her and knows how to draw on each team member’s strengths. She clearly values and nurtures relationships and personally participates in the development of future leaders in the industry.
Drawing on the depth of her experience, Deborah is a wise, thoughtful counsel on a broad range of commercial as well as corporate governance issues and her judgment and discretion is readily sought and trusted by her peers. She has a proven track record and reputation as a “turn-around” expert, guiding distressed companies into overcoming the challenges they were facing to ultimately pursue new and significant business opportunities or to improve shareholder returns, as may be appropriate in the circumstances. Deborah is brilliant under pressure and deals with any crisis with vigour and finesse, and an unparalleled clarity of mind.
Deborah’s history of achievements reflects the impeccable standards she has set for herself as well as for others, but her true brilliance is that she effortlessly inspires people to utilize their strengths and perform to their highest standards. She is extremely diligent and devotes very significant time to her job, both inside and outside the boardroom, demonstrating rigorous preparation, understanding, and participation in all aspects of the restructuring.
Deborah fosters an environment of constant improvement of strategic goals, performance and innovation in her peers and service providers and demonstrates a very clear focus on creating and balancing value for shareholders, customers, employees, and other stake holders of the companies under her directorship, even under pressure and in the face of disruptive litigation.
— Marianne Rajic, Walkers
As the charter chairman, Deborah has pursued the goals and efforts of the Grenada Community Foundation with a tenacity that is tempered by common sense, honesty, and a genuine respect for the humanness of those around her. It would have been easy for the corporate big shot to walk into little Grenada, Mississippi and tell us exactly what changes and improvements were necessary. It would have been especially easy for a turn-around manager as astute as Deborah. Instead of dictating a plan, Deborah suggested strategic and logistical tactics to improve our community, now her community, for the better. She listened patiently to the ideas, concerns, hopes, and fears of others. She saw the potential in our little spot of the world and encouraged all of the rest of us to think bigger. Her relentlessness and ability to motivate and organize others truly fueled the creation of the Grenada Community Foundation and has kept the engines running since.
— Sabrina D. Howell, Attorney at Law
What I shall do is tell something of the Deborah Medanek I know and why she is so uniquely worthy of this award.
I have seen over and over again the influence a bright and motivated member can have on such disparate organizations. Deborah Midanek has not simply been a member of these boards; she has been and continues to be a driving force for measurable improvements on both organizations. Her areas of influence, while broad on many areas of both institutions have been particularly and positively significant in that of corporate governance.
Simply stated, Deborah Midanek can always be relied upon to exert her exceptional abilities as well as the force of her positive personality to accomplish an awareness of good corporate governance and affect lasting improvement in process and operation.
— John S. Stevens, Roberts & Stevens, P.A.
"She gently organized the crux of the issues and had the courage to propose logical and fulfilling solutions"
… Deborah’s exceptional skills and intuition, which I believe this award should recognize. Before going to battle against the company, Deborah and I had about 15 minutes to get to know each other. For me, as with most people, it would not be sufficient time to assess Deborah and the resources she would provide me. For Deborah, 15 minutes was more than ample time to not only assess me, but to determine her role augmenting my effort through the conclusion of the matter. When Deborah first spoke, she was captivating. She was well spoken, warm, and generous, and convincingly instilled in all the constituencies that day the need to collaborate. As we left our first meeting, she smiled at me with a twinkle in her eye.
Shortly thereafter, the parties were at odds again with the litigation mounting. Debora, again took leadership. She commanded through her knowledge and preparedness. She gently organized the crux of the issues and had the courage to propose logical and fulfilling solutions in a compassionate way. Again, her intuition was right on. Her judgment was impeccable. As we left that meeting, she smiled at me with a twinkle in her eye.
Then the unmentionable hit — 9/11. It propelled the company into a tail spin. No one could see a way out of this dilemma except for Deborah. She commanded the situation, embraced the problem, and enabled the company to receive a multi-million dollar relief from the Federal Government. Today, the company is strong and competitive.
Deborah moved on to new challenges as her phone never stops ringing. I have been one of those repeat callers. Every time I have reached out to Deborah, I am glad I did. Every time I think about Deborah, she intuitively calls me. In my over 15 years knowing Deborah, there is not a thing I have told her that has been forgotten. There is not a priority of mine that does not become a priority of hers. Her compassion or people and her commitment to collaboration and inclusion, sets her apart from anyone I have come to know in my decades of practicing law.
— Trey A. Monsour, K&L Gates, LLP