Nancy Axilrod, IP and Litigation Guru
On November 10, Nancy Axilrod came to NYU to talk about her work as a litigator, in house lawyer, and currently her work as General Counsel, for Tapestry, Inc. She gave insightful tips on how to succeed in the industry as well as giving students a look inside her work as a general counsel lawyer.
Tapestry, Inc (formerly known as Coach, Inc) is an American luxury fashion company. They own three major brands: Coach, Kate Spade and Stuart Weitzman. Tapestry is publicly owned, and as of 2016, had $4.24 billion in revenue. Axilrod joined Tapestry in 2010. However, she had a very interesting career before she made her way into the creative world.
Axilrod had an interesting beginning. After getting divorced and having a child at a young age, she decided to go back to school to study law. After attending law school, she worked as a Shareholder and Director for Sterns & Weinroth, P.C.
She then worked for Sands Casino Hotel in their General Counsel. At Sands Casino group, she learned the ins and outs of casino regulatory work and commercial litigation. She was so successful at Sands that Carl Ichan, one of the leaders of Sands Casino Group, approached Axilrod to come work personally for him in his business affairs. Axilrod noted that he said there would be a “bunch of litigation” for her, and she moved from Las Vegas to New York to come work for him. She was Assistant General Counsel for Ichan Enterprises L.P. and Icahn Associates Corporation from 2006 and 2009.
In 2010, Axilrod made the move to Coach, entering the world of fashion law. She noted that “nothing about fashion drew to her”. She took on the role as Senior Vice President and Deputy General Counsel. At Coach, she drew similarities from her previous work by “looking at assets”. She noted that in the casino world, the main asset is the license to conduct gambling – without the license, you are just a hotel with some restaurants inside. In contrast in the fashion world, the most important asset is “not the real estate or handbags” but rather it is a name – Stuart Weitzman, Coach, Kate Spade – a name that customers recognize, and a primary reason why they will purchase such an item.
Axilrod has structured the law department at Coach to be multi brand. She chooses not to specialize the department, but rather she leads the group in order to be able to work within all the different facets of the Coach family. She finds that the law department “touches every department in the company, and thus each department is an individual client of the law group.”
Kate Spade and Coach
On May 8, 2017, Coach announced that it would be acquiring its smaller rival, Kate Spade & Co, for $2.4 billion. Coach CEO Victor Luis noted, “Kate Spade has a truly unique and differentiated brand positioning with a broad lifestyle assortment and strong awareness among consumers, especially millennials.” Axilrod noted that her summer was “ruined” because of this merger, but was one of the most fun experiences she had while working at Coach. She noted that as a general counsel, there is never need to hire an outside firm for help with mergers and acquisitions, and that her team truly worked together to get the job done.
The transaction was completed on July 11, 2017. The purchase price was funded by a combination of senior notes, bank term loans and excess Coach Cash. The transaction shows a premium of 27.5% to the closing price of Kate Spade from December 27, 2016 and a 9% premium to the closing price on May 5, 2017. Following the expiration of a tender offer by a subsidiary of Coach, Inc., for all the outstanding shares of Kate Spade & Company, Coach, Inc. caused the merger of its subsidiary with and into Kate Spade & Company. As a result, Kate Spade & Company became a wholly owned subsidiary of Coach, Inc. Because of the Merger, all eligible Kate Spade & Company shares not tendered were cancelled and converted to receive $18.50 per share in cash.
Advice for Young Lawyers
Nancy Axilrod gave plenty of advice for young lawyers in the industry. Her main point was to stay educated and curious, to participate in as many activities and take as many classes as possible. She noted that no class will truly prepare you for substantive work, but to learn as much as you can to be exposed to all different facets of the law.
Sophie Fritz is a J.D. candidate, 2019, at NYU School of Law.