Attorney guides clients through complex business and real estate transactions


 By Sheila Pursglove

Legal News

The real estate market and the evolution of businesses are a wonderful backdrop for rebirth and rejuvenation, says John Gonway, co-chair of the Real Estate Practice Group at Maddin, Hauser, Roth, & Heller in Southfield, and a specialist in the acquisition, financing, construction, development and leasing of commercial real estate, with particular expertise in multi-family housing.  

“Working with clients in this area provides an exciting avenue to help clients achieve these goals in and around metro Detroit and elsewhere,” he says. “The transactions are typically multi-faceted with a number of moving parts and interesting parties – acquisition, finance, investors, land use, title and survey.”

Some of those moving parts may occasionally break down. Gonway once had a real estate closing postponed on the night before closing because of a boiler explosion at the property, and has also seen closings postponed due to hurricanes. 

“Life is full of ‘to do’ lists and checklists – the wonderful organizational bedrock of any well-planned endeavor,” he says. “In a multi-family real estate transaction the checklist can be quite lengthy, detailing and planning out a number of items for execution with buyer and seller, the lender, the occupants and the governmental authorities. The wire transfer of the closing funds is usually the last of these shoes to drop. When boiler explosions, hurricanes and other Acts of God interrupt this well-choreographed execution, it sends all of the parties back to the drawing board to make the necessary adjustments.”

Not all cases entail such drama, but real estate law is an enjoyable and challenging field for Gonway. He has been an attorney at Maddin Hauser for nearly nine years, and in January was appointed to the executive committee, along with colleagues Marty Frenkel and Ron Sollish. A member of the Real Property, Business Law and Taxation Sections of the State Bar of Michigan, he also is a member of the Oakland County Bar Association.  

He received his juris doctor, cum laude, from Wayne State University Law School.  

“I was drawn to law by the academic rigor and the place lawyers hold in society, as learned professionals contributing immensely to society.  It also fed my natural instinct to get the correct or best possible answer to a problem,” he says. “I enjoyed Wayne Law for its excellent professors, and a great learning experience in a vibrant city.”

An avid mountain biker, Gonway spent six years as director of advocacy for the nonprofit Michigan Mountain Biking Association. 

“I helped organize their advocacy efforts, mostly lobbying and dealing with the State DNR, and local municipalities that manage mountain bike trails,” he says. “I resigned a couple of years ago, turning it over to another MMBA representative.” 

He was appointed in 2010 by then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm to the Michigan Trails Advisory Council, a group that advises the governor and Department of Natural Resources and Environment on the creation, development, operation and maintenance of motorized and non-motorized trails. 

He also enjoys biking on the road, sometimes biking from his home in the Rochester area to the office when the weather allows. His passion for two-wheel travel began when he was a sophomore at Michigan State University, where he received his undergrad degree in political philosophy and history from James Madison College. Using a Cannondale mountain bike to get around campus, he then started riding local trails, founded a mountain biking club at MSU, and organized club trips to trails and races throughout Michigan. While the sport took a back seat for a decade while he handled law school, a legal career and marriage and a family, he returned to it when he joined a friend’s biking trip in Stony Creek Metropark.

A native of Harbor Beach, he currently makes his home in Rochester Hills, with his wife Leslie, son Gabe, 15, and daughter: Allie, 12. In his spare time, he gives back with community service for various local charities; and enjoys history, basketball, and playing guitar. 

“I play mostly rock and blues,” he says. “My favorite guitars are my Les Paul and my Strat, and I’ve recently been dabbling in the collection of vintage tube amps from the ’50s and ’60s.”