DAC Member Profile: Michael Korenberg

Michael Korenberg is a member of the Dean's Advisory Committee ("DAC") for the Centre for Business Law at the Allard School of Law. The DAC is comprised of senior members of the legal community who provide strategic direction and advice to the Centre. A complete list of members can be found here

Michael Korenberg, B.A., J.D., is Vice-Chair of the Board of Governors of the University of British Columbia.  He serves on the boards of directors of HSBC Bank Canada, Westshore Terminals Investment Corporation, Canfor Corporation, Canfor Pulp Products Inc. and KP Tissue Inc. (Kruger Products), which he also chairs, as well as UBC Investment Management Trust.  Michael also serves as a member of the Advisory Board of the Heart & Stroke Foundation (BC/Yukon), the Law Societies of Upper Canada (Ontario) and British Columbia, and the DAC for the Centre for Business Law.

Michael was appointed by the Province of British Columbia to the Board of Governors of the University of British Columbia in 2016, and elected as Vice-Chair of the Board later that year. He chairs the Board’s Finance & Endowment Responsible Investment Policy committees, and serves on the Board’s Executive, Property and Audit committees.

Michael was an Adjunct Professor at the Allard School of Law from 1991-2014, and was a Sessional Lecturer at Queen’s University’s law faculty in 1988-89.

Until December 31, 2015, Michael was the Deputy Chair & Managing Director of The Jim Pattison Group, a privately-owned, diversified group of operating businesses, with revenues exceeding $9 billion and more than 40,000 employees, where he led corporate development efforts for 20 years.  Michael remains a director of that company.  Prior to joining The Jim Pattison Group, Michael was Deputy Chair & Chief Operating Officer of Orca Bay Sports & Entertainment (owner of the Vancouver Canucks), which built General Motors Place (now Rogers Arena) and brought the Vancouver Grizzlies NBA franchise to Vancouver during his time with the company.  Michael served as Vancouver’s Alternate Governor on the boards of the NHL and NBA.  Prior to that, he was a student, associate and then partner of Blake, Cassels & Graydon, where he practiced tax, securities and corporate-commercial law, and moved with the firm from Toronto in April 1989, when it opened its Vancouver office.

Michael received his Juris Doctor (formerly LL.B.) from Osgoode Hall Law School and Bachelor of Arts (with distinction) from Carleton University.

What inspired you to go to law school?
My godfather was a lawyer at a Montreal-based law firm that eventually merged with McCarthy Tétrault.  He had a busy corporate/commercial practice, and it was easy to see that his advice was much sought-after.  While doing my undergraduate degree at Carleton University, I was a Page in the House of Commons in the first year that the Page Programme was redirected to first year university students.  I was fascinated with the political process, and how laws are enacted.  I also had the great fortune of taking some classes from a simply outstanding professor named Margaret Ogilvie in Carleton’s Department of Law and Legal Studies.  She was one of the finest professors I have ever had, and inspired a great many of her students to go on to law school; in my case, to Osgoode Hall.

Why did you decide to transition from practicing tax and corporate-securities law to roles involving corporate development?
Although I started out practicing corporate tax law at Blake, Cassels & Graydon, I found the limited exposure that this practice area gave me to the transactions going on at the firm left me feeling somewhat disconnected.  I was given the opportunity to join a corporate-securities team at the firm, mentored by an extraordinary lawyer named J. David A. Jackson.  He is the finest lawyer it has ever been my good fortune to know, and with whom I was able to develop my securities and corporate practice.  In 1989, Blakes (which had already expanded to Calgary) decided to merge with a Vancouver-based labour and litigation boutique firm named Jordan, Gall & Storrow, and I was given the opportunity to move out to Vancouver where my Mom and family had moved in the late 1970s.  After several years in which we established the firm and recruited some exceptional lawyers, a client named Arthur Griffiths invited me to join him as he sought to take private a public company controlled by his family (Northwest Sports). It owned the Vancouver Canucks and was planning to build a new arena in Vancouver, and to bring NBA basketball to Vancouver.  It was too good an opportunity to pass up.  After the arena was built and both teams were playing, I was recruited to join The Jim Pattison Group as a corporate development resource.

What did you most enjoy about your role as Deputy Chairman & Managing Director of The Jim Pattison Group? How did your legal education assist you in this role?
The breadth of the businesses that form The Jim Pattison Group is extraordinary. They are led by some of the finest business leaders in their industries.  The Group is totally private, which means that plans can be (and are) developed with a long-term orientation.  That is a decided competitive advantage, particularly with the ‘short-termism’ that seems to infect many publicly-traded companies.  My role was to ‘run the offense’, buying companies, forming joint ventures and strategic alliances and helping the Group’s businesses grow.  In addition to negotiating the deals, I drafted both the letters of intent and most of the definitive acquisition agreements, ably assisted by Nick Desmarais, the Managing Director, Legal Services at the Group, and outside counsel.  We looked at hundreds of potential acquisitions and investments each year.  It required a willingness to get up-to-speed on many different industries, conduct due diligence across the U.S. and Canada and look for businesses whose cultures and business plans would fit well with the Group.  It was the experience of a lifetime.

As a member of the UBC Board of Governors, what exciting things do you see for UBC’s future?
Frankly, with the strength in management at UBC, led by Santa Ono, our exceptional President & Vice Chancellor and his executive team, and the outstanding quality of the deans and faculty members throughout the University at Point Grey and the Okanagan, I see only great things ahead for UBC.  I consider myself to be truly privileged to serve on the Board of Governors, particularly following the appointment of a new President and finalization of a new strategic plan for the University.  Governors serve as volunteers, and I can attest that every Governor is committed to working in the best interests of the University. With the support of BC’s provincial government, which is a key partner in funding UBC (and other universities in British Columbia), and with enhanced research funding nationally, and the inspiring philanthropic support UBC receives from alumni and other supporters, UBC is committed to leaping from ‘Excellence to Eminence’, as Professor Ono declared in his installation ceremony as UBC’s 15th President & Vice Chancellor last November. That will come from funding dedicated to research, new facilities our Board is committed to supporting, new and enhanced student financial aid, meeting the changing needs of students, all supported by a world-class staff.  UBC is extraordinarily well-positioned to achieve its place among the leading research universities globally, and is well on its way in a great many of its faculties.

Why did you decide to join the Centre for Business Law Dean's Advisory Committee?
As someone who taught at the law school for 24 years as an adjunct professor, I had the great experience of teaching something like 1,000 law students over the years.  The law school’s ranking continues to improve in national surveys, due for the most part to the terrific deans and faculty.  My former law partner at Blakes, Bill Kaplan, was a member of the Dean’s Advisory Committee and felt that it was a strong forum for the Dean and business law faculty leadership to evaluate how to evolve the program to deliver a better educational experience for students at the school.  Successive deans have leveraged the advice of the Dean’s Advisory Committee to design and deliver more impactful education and research, as well as build closer ties with the legal and business community in Vancouver.   

What advice would you give to law students who are interested in a future career in business?
A legal background is a terrific asset for a career in business.  While a degree in commerce/business offers a great foundation, understanding how transactions come together, how to find key information in due diligence, how to protect against downside risks in legal agreements, how to design transactions to achieve desired business outcomes, how to protect upside potential in intellectual property development and so on, offer law graduates a very important seat at the business table and in executive positions.  Law students work as hard, if not harder, than those enrolled in other faculties.  That work ethic, as well as the opportunity a great legal education offers students to look at problems in different ways with a view to finding solutions, are powerful building blocks for a great career, in law or business.  Whatever a student chooses to do, my advice is to make sure that they have a real passion for what they are doing, for that passion will help them achieve incredible results.