Attorney represents several wind developers in Michigan and U.S.

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

A former Director of the Midwest Chapter of the Energy Bar Association, attorney Jon Kreucher serves as acting general counsel for a company with commercial-scale wind turbines in wind energy projects throughout the U.S. and Mexico.

“Renewable energy hit stride in Michigan about seven years ago,” notes Kreucher, an attorney at Howard & Howard in Royal Oak. “Our firm actively represents all kinds of independent power producers, from large natural gas fired plants to wind developers. The energy business poses an enjoyable challenge and overlaps with the regulatory work I had done before.”

Kreucher and his colleague Rodger Kershner, former General Counsel for CMS Energy, have been in the middle of a lot of the wind development in Michigan. The two have represented several wind developers and have even represented different groups of landowners in the solicitation of competitive proposals from wind developers.

“We were told by the wind industry’s national association that we were the first attorneys east of the Mississippi to utilize a competitive bidding process. It worked very well for both our landowner clients and for the successful developers,” Kreucher says.

The development of wind power has also led to other issues. Kreucher is currently representing a wind turbine manufacturer that lost a $4 million turbine to a fire in Mexico following electrical work by a subcontractor. He successfully defended a $10 million lawsuit brought by landowners in Iowa who were disappointed in the wind developer’s activities and the royalties being paid. In Illinois, Kreucher and his partner Jim Morgan established that commercial scale wind turbines were personal rather than real property in that state, to advance their client’s lien priority.

Named among dbusiness Top Lawyers, and with particular expertise in energy, automotive, and telecommunications matters, Kreucher has enjoyed a varied career since earning his undergrad degree from the University of Michigan.

After graduating, he was invited to return to his hometown of Frankenmuth to run the Chamber of Commerce, one of the 10 largest in the state, with an annual budget of nearly a million dollars and eight full-time employees.

“It was a dream job for any freshly-minted college graduate. As executive director I had an opportunity to work with many of the most talented entrepreneurs in Michigan,” he says. “It was great to be 22 and in the middle of so much.

“Millions visit Frankenmuth but people really live there, too,” he adds. “This is a place that can seat 8,000 people at once for a chicken dinner and one that also serves up Christmas all year long. It’s kind of crazy when you think about it, and I still love it there. My sister Kristen is the principal of the middle school and my folks still live there, too.”

When it became clear that job advancements would require frequent moves, Kreucher decided to follow in the footsteps of his brother Brian and pursue a career in law. After graduating summa cum laude and with top of class honors in 11 subjects from Cooley Law School, he joined Howard & Howard.

Recruited a few years later into Continental Cablevision, he became vice president by age 32, and his career developed in the midst of the rapid consolidation in that industry. Assisting in many of those transactions, Kreucher landed at successively larger Fortune 500 telecom companies, ending as a division vice president responsible for all regulatory and government affairs in a $2 billion division covering 11 states.

“That decade of in-house experience was tremendous,” he says. “Being part of executive management teams for so many years gives a lawyer a deeper appreciation for things that clients value – like prompt, practical advice that advances their business objectives. It also exposed me to a complex, highly regulated industry and the legal issues that complexity can create.”

Ready for a new challenge, he returned to Howard & Howard where he reunited with Tim Wittebort, a good friend from his first tour with the firm. The two developed a “virtual general counsel” model to assist one of the firm’s clients, a worldwide private equity firm with about 25 portfolio companies at any given time.

“When a company is acquired there is often a transition in the executive team and a void is left in the general counsel position,” Kreucher explains. “Tim and I have developed processes which allow us to quickly assess the company’s legal risks and obligations, fill the general counsel role, and build any necessary legal infrastructure while the company is transitioned. The model works especially well for private equity portcos, but can also fill a need for other companies that are in transition or those that aren’t quite large enough for a full time GC.”

The virtual GC work leverages Kreucher’s in-house experience, is fast moving and requires a very broad skill set – everything from commercial transactions to crises communications, and labor and employment to litigation.

“You have to be able to ‘drink from the fire hose,’ spot issues, and respond very quickly,” Kreucher notes. “I also get the chance to be ‘in-house’ again even though I’m still in private practice. Our clients like the model because it’s responsive, flexible, and often costs the same or less than having to immediately find and replace or build a legal staff.”

For one acting GC job in metro Detroit, Kreucher commuted two days a week for a couple of years and handled the legal work for a leading wire harness manufacturer that had customers across the globe and manufacturing operations in several countries.

Another “portco” general counsel position took him to the west coast for a year. “A composition was used to resolve almost a billion dollars in claims for about 10 cents on the dollar,” he says. “An unsustainable business was significantly restructured and refocused, and is now very successful.

“In all these cases I get to be part of an executive team again which keeps me grounded in these industries and exposed to the businesses’ other issues.”

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