MICHAEL G. NICHOLS
Senior vice president, general counsel and secretary, Sysco Corp.
Founded in 1969, Houston-based Sysco Corp. distributes food and supplies to restaurants, schools,
hotels and hospitals throughout the United States.
The company provides customers in the hospitality
industry with kitchen equipment and other goods.
Sysco has about 47,000 employees and 186 distribution sites. Its 2009 sales topped $36 billion.
Last year, Sysco expanded beyond North America
Michael C. Nichols, Sysco’s senior vice president
for administration, general counsel and corporate
secretary, joined the company in 1981. He advises
the board of directors and top executives on legal
and strategic matters and has been involved in more
than 100 acquisitions.
Sysco’s legal department comprises just six lawyers
in addition to Nichols. The associate general counsel
is Russell T. Libby, who oversees acquisitions and
real estate. Other attorneys handle securities and
governance matters, contracts, employment, litigation
and trademark matters. The office has an opening
for a second contracts attorney. Three attorneys in
other Sysco departments—labor, employment and
human resources—report to Nichols.
Sysco uses Arnall Golden Gregory for securities
and governance work. The Atlanta firm’s relationship
with Sysco dates to its earliest days; Saul Golden
was one of Sysco’s founders, Nichols said. The firm
also handles benefits and compensation matters as
well as real estate and acquisitions.
San Francisco-based Littler Mendelson and Houston-based Bracewell & Giuliani handle Sysco’s labor
and employment matters, as does Morgan, Lewis &
Bockius’ office in Philadelphia. About 18% of Sysco’s
work force, including its warehouse workers, is unionized. Sysco’s unionized employees are covered by 28
labor contracts, said Nichols, whose early years at the
company were spent handling labor negotiations.
Houston-based litigation boutique firm Susman
Godfrey handles litigation, as does Zimmerman,
Axelrad, Meyer, Stern & Wise of Houston. Regulatory
matters go to McKenna Long & Aldridge and Canadian
national firm Stikeman Elliott takes on legal matters
in that country. Andrews Kurth of Houston oversees
contractual issues. Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher’s Washington office handles governance matters, as does
Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz of New York. Wilmer
Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr represents the audit
committee of Sysco’s board.
HOLDING COSTS DOWN
Sysco caps its outside counsel costs by requesting discounts for set hours of work and by having
COMMERCIAL LAW AND CONTRACTS LITIGATION
Capehart & Scatchard; Friedman & Wexler; Mattleman, Weinroth & Miller;
Mitnick & Malzberg; Morgan, Bornstein & Morgan; Stein & Rotman