Returning the favor: Managing director helps consulting firm give back

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 By Tom Kirvan

Legal News
 
Chuck Moore, senior managing director for Conway MacKenzie, an international firm specializing in turnaround and crisis management services, knew the stakes were high when the Birmingham-based consulting company was retained by Greektown Hotel-Casino in 2008 to help with its restructuring.
 
The downtown casino operation, then owned by the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, was beset by a series of financial, construction, and licensing problems that were about to spell doom for the business that at one time figured to be a cash cow.
 
“It was a very contentious situation,” Moore related. “The hotel was half built when the money ran out and they were facing some very difficult regulatory and licensing issues with the (Michigan) Gaming Control Board. It seemed like a new set of problems arose almost every day.”
 
To stem the tide, casino officials eventually decided to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in May 2008, a spring day that will live a long life in Moore’s memory bank. 
 
Shortly after riding to a downtown meeting with the CEO of Greektown Casino, Moore was informed of some particularly unsettling news. The CEO’s car, a luxury import, had been destroyed in a blast while parked nearby. It was unoccupied at the time of the explosion.
 
“Let’s just say that got my attention,” Moore said of the blast, which investigators said was rigged by an unknown party. 
 
It also made Moore especially skittish about climbing into his own car, which was parked close by in a downtown garage.
 
“I had all sorts of horrible thoughts running through my mind when I approached my car, wondering if something similar was going to happen to me,” Moore said. “Fortunately, nothing did.”
 
Eventually, Moore’s work on the Greektown Casino project would be written with a happy ending. The company emerged from bankruptcy protection two years later in a much healthier financial state, nearly doubling its annual cash flow after completing construction on the adjoining hotel and satisfying regulatory and licensing concerns. 
 
Conway MacKenzie would receive corresponding kudos, earning recognition from the Global M&A Network as the recipient of the “Turnaround Atlas Award of the Year” in 2010 for its efforts as the “financial and restructuring advisor to Greektown Hotel-Casino.” Van Conway, co-founder of the consulting firm that bears his name, said Moore deserves the lion’s share of the credit for Greektown getting back on its feet.
 
“Quite simply, they were going out of business,” Conway said. “They were on the verge of being liquidated. Chuck almost single-handedly saved the casino from going under. He is one of the super stars of this firm.”
 
Moore’s “can do” reputation is becoming increasingly well known in legal circles throughout Metro Detroit, particularly with the Oakland County Bar Foundation, where he is a board member and currently is serving as co-chair of the upcoming “Signature Event” at Oakland Hills Country Club.
 
For the second straight year, Conway MacKenzie is one of the platinum sponsors of the event, donating $10,000 for the 14th annual spring gala that will take place on Friday, April 19 from 7-10 p.m. Such contributions have become customary for Conway MacKenzie, which has been a longtime supporter of pro bono and legal aid work in the Detroit area. 
 
This year’s sponsorship money will be used to support OCBF grants for the University of Detroit Mobile law Office, the Family Law Assistance Program, the Youth Law Conference, the Center for Civic Education Through Law, and the Beaumont Hospital Legal Aid for Children program among other recipients. Since 2002, “the OCBF, with support from sponsors of the Signature Event, has contributed over $1,200,000, including over $878,500 in the last five years,” to help fund such programs, according to Liz Luckenbach, president of the Bar Foundation.
 
Moore, who lives in Birmingham with his wife, Teri, and their four children, is well versed in the art of fund-raising, volunteering on behalf of various Catholic charities as well as HAVEN, the crisis support agency in Oakland County that assists domestic violence victims.
 
“I believe strongly in the importance of giving back, and fortunately I work with a company that has a long history of contributing to worthwhile community causes,” Moore said. “We have a philosophy here of ‘making a difference’ in the communities where we’re based, and volunteerism is encouraged at virtually every turn.”
 
He credits Conway for helping set the standard for the company, which was recognized by The Detroit Free Press as one of the “Top Workplaces for 2012,” fittingly a year in which the firm marked its 25th anniversary.
 
Conway, whose late parents, Paul and Barbara, owned a small company in Detroit, believes that generosity is a “learned behavior,” and praised his mother and father for instilling in him the “desire to do good” for others.
 
“I saw my dad always helping others, not necessarily with money but with his time, which can be even more valuable,” said Conway, a CPA and Detroit product who co-founded the consulting firm in 1987 with Donald MacKenzie. “That has stuck with me throughout life.”
 
Moore, also a CPA, is an alumnus of Michigan State University, where he earned both his bachelor and master degrees. In 2008, he was honored by Crain’s Detroit Business with inclusion in its “40 Under 40” class. Two years earlier, Moore was named one of 12 “People to Watch-Business Professionals Making Their Mark” by Turnarounds & Workouts magazine. Several years ago, he was appointed to the Legislative Commission on Government Efficiency, a nine-person task force charged with identifying ways to improve state finances.
 
Prior to joining Conway MacKenzie in 2001, Moore was the chief financial officer of a privately owned automotive supplier. Previously, he served as a manager in the middle market consulting practice of Deloitte & Touche.
 
His financial expertise is currently being put to the test in restructuring efforts with the City of Detroit, which retained Conway MacKenzie’s services late last year as it grapples with its deepening fiscal crisis. 
 
Moore readily acknowledges the difficulty of the financial task ahead, which he said has been exacerbated by years of “staff cutbacks and operational inefficiencies” linked to outdated technology.
 
“There are 27 different city departments that we are dealing with, so it is important that things be streamlined for greater efficiency,” Moore said. “It is absolutely critical that the problems be addressed and I’m confident that the necessary steps are being taken to get the city’s financial situation back on track.”
 
If the restructuring efforts eventually meet with success, Moore will take special satisfaction in helping make it happen. His great-grandfather was a Detroit fire chief back in the 1920s, part of the last “running of the horses” brigade that fought blazes in the city.
 
“It would be neat for him to know that 90 years later his great-grandson is part of the team that is working on the restructuring of Detroit,” Moore said. “There is something special in that link to the past.”

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