With the kind of network, reach, and sophistication that can only be developed over time, Solon’s teams bring extensive and varied experience to each situation. Founded and led by Deborah Hicks Midanek, a pioneer in the corporate restructuring industry, our teams are comprised of outstanding people who parachute into high-pressure situations and make a difference fast, providing unbiased analysis, clear thinking and steady leadership.
Deborah Hicks Midanek
Well known for her turnaround expertise, Deborah has consistently positioned businesses for accelerated growth. She has diagnosed and remedied problems for over 60 corporations plus furthered growth of nearly 30 ventures, including her own. She was once described by the late Fletcher Byrom as a “pure thinker” – quickly gaining a deep understanding of complex problems, while exhibiting sensitivity to all parties involved and an extraordinary ability to assimilate and craft lasting solutions.
Deborah has been directly involved in much of the extraordinary innovation that has taken place on Wall Street over the last few decades, and in handling the consequences of its excess. With solid knowledge of capital markets from all points of view and a long record of success in building and rebuilding companies from the bottom up, Deborah focuses relentlessly on defining transitions as positive processes. Not interested in merely preserving companies, organizations and jobs, instead she works to drive them to levels previously unimagined. She has led turnaround teams for diverse companies including Parmalat USA, Mississippi Chemical, and FINOVA. Earlier, she served as CEO of United Companies Financial Corporation and Standard Brands Paint.
Deborah has served as director, lead director or chairman as well as committee chair (audit, compensation, governance, special independent) for public and private companies including HCC Insurance Holdings, Signature Group Holdings, MB Holdings, Phosphates Holdings, Inc., Rodman & Renshaw Group, Inc., and Tricapital, Ltd., among others. A trustee of the Committee for Economic Development since 1992, she is also on the advisory board of family owned Biltmore Companies. Deborah chaired the board of Standard Brands Paint and American Homestar, and The Solon Funds, registered under the Investment Company Act of 1940. She also served as de facto lead director for Drexel Burnham, deemed an inadvertent investment company, during its bankruptcy, where she organized the shareholders to achieve recognition in the bankruptcy and restructured the incumbent board to favor independent directors. She joined Drexel Burnham to start its derivatives function, which grew to $50 billion in contracts; she then formed and led the firm’s structured products group. She is a 2011 NACD Board Leadership Fellow, the first year such designations were available.
Deborah earned her MBA from the Wharton School and an AB from Bryn Mawr College. A frequent writer and speaker on governance, strategy, and leadership, she is deeply involved in promoting entrepreneurship.
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Coley brings a distinguished record of success in resolving complex problems throughout a range of organizations, from family run businesses to NYSE-listed corporations. His experience is complemented by a keen sensitivity to the needs and concerns of those most affected by adversity, having himself been both a major shareholder and chairman of a NYSE listed company in distress, independent director of various organizations and managing partner of a family business going through extreme challenges.
Nancy brings an extraordinary depth of experience in conflict resolution to Solon clients, through her background in national security. An expert with over 30 years of experience negotiating resolutions to conflict large and small, she has served governments and corporations struggling with difficult issues. She brings a nuanced, careful approach first to listening, then to discerning possible routes to resolution. Nancy is also the author of 6 books, and teaches entrepreneurship and leadership in various organizations, including George Washington University.
Gwen has a broad range of experience investigating and defining the root cause of clients’ key issues, along with a history of developing carefully and rapidly plotted courses to deliver results of different kinds for the client to consider. Having worked in a wide variety of industries and played a number of mission critical roles, she focuses on strategic planning and organizational alignment. An effective facilitator, Gwen brings vision, humor, warmth and common sense to each assignment.
Thomas manages project scheduling and team organization. Thomas took on his first turnaround engagement as manager of a smoothie bar at the age of 15, and earned a piece of the upside. Managing people far his senior in age, he became adept at objectively analyzing performance, and developing effective systems of communication and reward.
Thomas is a graduate of American University with a BA in political science, is a respected political strategist and accomplished manager of complex projects involving a wide variety of people and purposes.
Brian Penry has been building and contributing to leading brands since 1972, and has worked with Solon since 2007. A strategist and early proponent of design thinking as applied to resolving complex business issues, he has handled assignments for a diverse range of companies including Coca-Cola, Sega, Sony, Viacom, Disney/Touchstone, Patek Philippe, Mount Sinai Medical Center and Kravis Children’s Hospital (NYC), The Bolshoi Ballet and Opera, Special Olympics International, Carnegie Hall, Prevail Fund Global, The Genetic Literacy Project, Simon & Schuster, Bonnier Group, and HarperCollins, among many others.
James Schorr provides insight for Solon teams and clients alike into the world of technology. With a broad background in programming and systems design and implementation for enterprises large and small, James keeps Solon engagements from falling into the perennial black hole of the endless technology project, which can derail the best laid plans. Whether designing something new or addressing security or the retrofit needs of old systems, James designs alternate paths through the process, giving clients well-reasoned choices and budgets, and bringing realistic eyes to bear on the project plans laid out by others.
“We concentrate not on the size of the slice, but instead focus relentlessly on making the entire pizza bigger.”