Article Written By: Eboni T. Thomas
Gregory S. Nixon is the Chief Administrative Officer, Chief Legal Officer and Corporate Secretary for DynCorp International, one of the largest aviation maintenance companies in the world. The com- pany operates in 33 countries with 45 legal entities and thousands of employees around the globe. Managing a team of over 175 staff, Nixon is responsible for and oversees all aspects of numerous functions, including legal, contracts, compliance, human resources, procurement, security, export controls and crisis management.
Previously, Nixon served as a Managing Director of Cerberus Operations and Advisory Company, the operational arm of Cerberus Capital Management, which owns DynCorp International. Cerberus is one of the world’s leading private equity firms, with over 60 portfolio companies and over $30 billion under management. Prior to Cerberus, he served as Chief Legal Officer of CH2M Hill Com- panies, Ltd. while also serving on the Cerberus Operations and Advisory Company Board of Directors.
Nixon also served on the BlueLinx Holdings Inc. Board of Directors (NYSE BXC) as well as its Compensation and Governance Com- mittees. Prior to CH2M Hill, he served as DynCorp International’s Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary. He also served as a Vice President at McKinsey & Company Inc.; a Prin- cipal at Booz Allen Hamilton Inc.; and a Commercial Litigator and licensed patent attorney at the international law firm of Howrey & Simon LLP.
At DynCorp International, Nixon has leveraged his legal skills and business acumen to bring the company through high-stakes litiga- tion, investigations, substantial organizational restructure and a suc- cessful debt-refinancing. As a result, the company has seen better credit ratings, streamlined corporate structure and strategic growth. Nixon has also led creating a summer legal internship position to give candidates from a wide variety of backgrounds exposure to the company’s in-house legal function.
Nixon serves as a Senior Advisor to Tracker Capital Management LLC and on the Board of the University of Maryland University College (UMUC) Ventures, focused on fundraising. UMUC Ven- tures aims to make a positive economic impact by helping entrepre- neurs commercialize their discoveries. He has also served on Boards for the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund and the National Inven- tors Hall of Fame. He is a retired United States Air Force Lt. Colonel and serves on the Board of Trustees of Tuskegee University.
Savoy recently caught up with Mr. Nixon for a brief chat about excelling as a minority in business and law.
Q: What are the biggest challenges in the legal profession and our community?
Today’s evolving “business” of law has created challenges in the legal profession because the measure of success often is financial profitability, not necessarily the successful practice of law. This has also become an issue in other professions, such as the medi-
cal field. Because the dynamic of the “business” of law is changing, it puts pressure on partners to get business and to focus more on profitability. With respect to the challenges within our communi-
ty, we are seeing a reduced number of African-American partners at prominent law firms. For some reason, those numbers are steadily declining.
Q: How are you striving to make a positive impact?
Most lawyers are ‘strictly legal’, and most business executives are ‘strictly business’. I take a more holistic approach with an eye on value creation. How do you turn companies around? How do you create value, while looking at it through not only a business lens, but also a legal and regulatory lens? I’m also really committed to historically black colleges and universities [HBCUs], because HBCUs and their success are pivotal for us. I serve on the Boards of Trustees for Tuskegee University and Fisk University.
Q: What advice do you have for minorities in business or the legal profession?
I would say: (1) Education matters. Higher education is really important for our society and definitely for our community. (2) Be excellent. You need to have an uncompromising commitment to excellence. (3) Ideas matter. Come up with good ideas, and protect your ideas. Don’t just give them away. (4) Solve problems. The opportunities lie at the intersection of a problem and a solution.
Focus on problems that need to be solved. (5) Reputation matters. Zealously protect your personal and professional reputation. (6) Cul- tivate relationships. They don’t happen on their own. Be proactive and grow your network.