As senior VP and general counsel at Luminex, Richard Rew is involved in nearly every facet of its medical device business. Though he’s developed a skill set that prepares him for a myriad of challenges, the part he enjoys most ties directly to the company’s long-term growth plans.
“I like merger-and-acquisition activity,” says Rew, who joined the Austin, Texas-based company in March 2015. “I think it’s fun to find other businesses that are complementary to what your business is doing and look at where you want your business to go strategically.”
Rew was instrumental in the June 2016 acquisition of molecular diagnostics company Nanosphere Inc. His due diligence helped Luminex leadership confidently push forward on the deal. He was also a key figure in bringing Nanosphere employees into the fold after the deal closed.
“There’s a challenge to show them that they have a brighter future with your company than they would as a stand-alone entity,” Rew says. “It’s not always an intuitive sell, but we create opportunities with a dynamic combined entity and broader product portfolio.”
Rew has been in a leadership role almost from the beginning of his legal career. At age twenty-eight, he rose to the general counsel position at a publicly traded, Austin-based financial services company, where he essentially had to learn the job on the fly.
That experience is serving him well. For one thing, he was suddenly in charge of overseeing the legal implications of every facet of the business. The financial industry is also highly regulated, which gave him exposure to a similar environment to what he deals with now.
“I want people working for me who want my job one day.”
But Rew’s path to the healthcare industry wasn’t direct. His experience in financial services earned him the general counsel position at Austin-based software company, Activant Solutions Inc, now known as Epicor Software. Rew was involved in the sale of Activant to a private equity firm in 2006. That led him to join ArthroCare Corporation as its VP of legal affairs.
As soon as he started at ArthroCare, Rew realized his role would be much different.
“In healthcare, you have a lot of different things you have to think through to get your product on the market, and there’s an entirely different sales approach,” he says.
Selling software is a relatively straightforward and relationship-driven process. Prospective clients can be offered various incentives to buy.
“Many of our salespeople were excellent golfers,” Rew says with a laugh.
Antikickback statutes in healthcare, however, strictly govern what healthcare businesses can do.
“In healthcare, there’s a lot more focus on science and getting key opinion leaders to validate what you’re doing,” he says.
In his day-to-day role at Luminex, Rew is responsible for everything from public filings to intellectual property matters, but two things typically dominate his time. One is to make the contracting process as seamless as possible.
This past year, he and his team looked at where Luminex’s sales team had to spend the most time in contract negotiations. To make the sales process quicker, they tweaked the clauses that were routinely negotiated so there wouldn’t have to be as much back-and-forth.
The other area where Rew spends a majority of his time is compliance training. Even veteran members of the Luminex sales team need reminders of what they can and can’t do when dealing with healthcare professionals. Most of the rules, Rew says, sound pretty straightforward.
“But how do you put them into practice with things like discounts on products, particularly when you have salespeople who have come over from other industries?” Rew says. “We spend a lot of time working with them to make sure they understand the rules, and then we’re constantly reinforcing because it’s not as intuitive as it sounds.”
All this is in addition to Rew’s work on acquisitions. Many of these acquisitions are confidential until completed, which makes it diifficult for Rew to communicate to other employees what is occupying his time. Employees often find out a deal is happening only after it’s signed.
“You have to figure out how to do that and not ignore other the things that need to go on in the legal department,” Rew says. “You can’t make it obvious you’re spending time doing the M&A work and the day job has to get done.”
Rew relies on the three internal lawyers, two paralegals, and patent agent on his team to keep everything going at once. He’s relatively hands-off as a manager, particularly with the lawyers.
“My feeling is they got hired to their in-house positions because they’re good lawyers and don’t need a ton of direction,” he says. “I’m not going to spend a lot of time talking about how they drafted a particular indemnity clause. They’ve done it before.”
He does, however, make sure his legal team understands the science and technology of the products as much as they know the regulations. The approach has worked for both him and the lawyers he works with. Rew says two of the three lawyers who worked for him at ArthroCare, for instance, went on to top lawyer jobs at other companies.
“I want people working for me who want my job one day,” he says. “Having someone with that ambition is great. I want them to be ready at some point in their careers.”
No one on his team at Luminex has yet to move on to prominent positions at other companies, though. Rew is having too much fun helping the company grow through mergers and acquisitions.