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Michael Frankel: Using a Law Degree to Its Fullest Potential in M&A

The diverse educational and professional experience of lawyer turned corporate development and finance executive Michael Frankel offers a unique insight into where and how education can take you along your career path. Frankel left the University of Chicago with a BA, MA, MBA and JD in hand, and has used those degrees to develop a career in which he's negotiated and closed more than 100 transactions in the roles of corporate acquirer, investor, investment banker and attorney. 

After completing his JD and MBA, Frankel worked as a corporate attorney for Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP for three years. "I did a whole bunch of transactions and had a great time, but it solidified in my mind my view that I enjoyed being a practicing attorney but I was much more interested in the underlying business decisions that drove the legal documents I was drafting," says Frankel. "I was always sort of trying to creep my way into, 'What are my clients thinking, what are their strategies, why are they doing what they're doing?' and I came to the realization that I wanted to be on the business side."
Frankel's desire to move to the business side led him to positions as an investment banker with Merrill Lynch, a corporate development executive for GE Capital and VeriSign, and most recently head of corporate development for Information Resources.
One of his most memorable experiences came early in his career while working as an investment banker at Merrill Lynch. "It's not necessarily one of the larger (deals) I did, but it's in my mind as sort of a case study for why M&A is such a great tool for change for companies, and why you can create so much value and enhance companies with it," Frankel says.
During his time at Merrill Lynch, Frankel had worked with both UPS and Rollins Truck Leasing. He knew that UPS had a logistics business as a strategic focus but also had a small truck leasing business, while Rollins was primarily a truck leasing business but had a small logistics business built largely at their clients' request. Frankel leveraged his relationships and experience with UPS and Rollins to propose and ultimately execute a swap between the two companies.
"And it was a great deal because it was a true win-win that substantially enhanced both companies. And it wasn't just a financial transaction. Rollins got some money, and that was nice, but really this was a deal where, by doing this deal, you made both companies more successful and better off in an instant, just by dong this trade," Frankel says. "And it was fun because I came up with the idea, so I got to not only execute the deal but sort of develop the strategic thesis behind the deal."

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