Avnet is not unionized, but in Europe Birk “works
very nicely” with local labor councils that operate
similarly to unions. He emphasized the importance
of sensitivity to cultural nuances, and of being alert
to the potential business and legal risks in Avnet’s
foreign forays. In addition to his legal duties, Vallee
asked Birk to be the architect of Avnet’s “shared
business services approach.” Calling upon his
experience with human resources, information
AVNET AND REGULATIONS
Especially after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11,
2001, Avnet has been subject to stringent regula-
tions concerning the export of high-tech products.
Its customers, and where it does business, are care-
fully scrutinized. Avnet dutifully adheres to European
Restriction of Hazardous Substances directives and
Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment protocol.
It follows a strict hazardous materials transporta-
its chief legal officer since 1989. He was named
a corporate senior vice president in 1992. From
2003 to 2005, he lived in Belgium, operating from
the company’s European headquarters. Before
his Avnet arrival, Birk was a partner in Burstein
& Marcus in White Plains, N.Y., and an associate
attorney with New York’s Jacobs Persinger & Parker.
He graduated from the University of Florida in 1969
and received a law degree from Cornell Law School
three years later.
We need to have an understanding of where tech is
going, and the legal implications of that.”
technology, data centers and other administrative
areas, Birk formulated a mixture of pure legal work
and organizational responsibilities. He later did the
same for the company’s European operations.
tion program, as well. According to Birk, Arizona
enforces some of the most strenuous immigration
PLETHORA OF ACQUISITIONS
The overall responsibility for Avnet’s vigorous
mergers-and-acquisitions program rests on Birk’s
shoulders. During the past 18 months alone, the
industrial giant has closed 10 acquisitions, boosting
revenue by more than $1.5 billion. Birk estimated
that he has participated in more than 100 acquisitions and at least 35 divestitures during his career.
“Going into emerging markets with M&A is the most
challenging and rewarding,” he said.
PRO BONO/DIVERSITY EFFORTS
Birk encourages his teammates to participate in
pro bono pursuits. He does work for the State Bar
of Arizona—his pet project is revamping registration requirements for in-house attorneys who are
not members of their local bar.
Half of Avnet’s legal arm is located outside the
United States, so it is inherently diverse.
Altoona, Pa.-born Birk is a rowing enthusiast
who glides atop lakes in a double-scull boat. He
and his wife, Wilma, have four daughters: Caitlin, Whitney, Leah and Kerry. The Birks devote
countless hours to the American Field Service, a
prominent high school foreign exchange organization. Birk recently was cited by Arizona Business
Magazine as one of the state’s 10 most influential
A BOOK AND MOVIE
“Book of Air and Shadows,” by Michael Gruber,
and “Righteous Kill,” a Al Pacino/Robert de Niro
thriller produced and directed by Jon Avnet, the son
of Avnet’s founder.
ROUTE TO PRESENT POSITION
Birk joined Avnet in 1980 and has served as
An earlier version of this profile appeared in The
National Law Journal on Oct. 22, 2008.