“You’d be hard-pressed to go through a day and not interact with one of our products,” says Dan Weber, senior vice president and general counsel of TTM Technologies.
TTM’s core business is the manufacture of printed circuit boards (PCBs), the building blocks of all computer-based electronics, or as Weber explains, “the green boards that have all the copper lines in them that connect almost all electronics.”
Just how pervasive are PCBs? “Almost every electronic product has one or more PCBs in it,” Weber says. “Our PCBs are in medical scanning devices, cell phones, diabetes monitoring systems, airplanes, and locomotives. We produce circular PCBs that go into missiles, and design and produce PCB assemblies that are integrated into radar systems that help the US prevent missile attacks.”
Incorporated in 1998, TTM has been doubling in size approximately every four years, taking on new industries and expanding geographically via major acquisitions. The companies TTM has absorbed represent a who’s who of the PCB world–Honeywell Advanced Circuits, Tyco Printed Circuit Group, Meadville Printed Circuit Corp., and Viasystems. The Tyco acquisition made the company the largest supplier of PCBs to the aerospace and defense industry; Meadville pushed it into smartphones and tablet computers and expanded its footprint in Asia; Viasystems catapulted it into the automotive world and increased its presence in the aerospace and defense industries.
In 2015, as Viasystems’ vice president and general counsel, Weber steered Viasystems through the acquisition by TTM. He was then asked to bring his talents and experience to the TTM family. Since then, he has helped the company continue its acquisition-oriented approach. In 2018, TTM purchased Anaren, which designs and manufactures high-frequency radio and microwave microelectronics for the space, defense, and telecommunications industries. “One of the great things about Anaren is that it allows us to move up the food chain, from a build-to-print model (using customers’ designs) to build-to-spec (creating the design),” Weber explains.
Weber credits TTM’s CEO Tom Edman with ensuring smooth integrations following acquisitions. “This is one of the most disciplined organizations I’ve ever seen, and it starts with Tom. There is constant and continuous communication about what we’re doing, and how and why we’re doing it,” Weber says. “At some companies, management will get enthusiastic about a deal and lose sight of the lives that are being affected. At TTM, Tom makes it a priority for management to focus on the human as well as the capital assets.”
Weber, who earned his law degree from St. Louis University, says part of his job is to stay up-to-date with the highly complex world of manufacturing electronics. “It’s extremely important for in-house counsel to not only understand the products but to effectively help manage the business,” he notes. “If you know the products you are selling and the business and financial goals, it makes providing counsel and serving the company’s interests much easier because you know the sticking points or ‘must haves’ in each situation.”
Weber had to be a quick learner early on in his career. “For me, it was trial by fire,” he admits. In the early 2000s, he was part of a team that managed companies acquired by Hicks, Muse, Tate and Furst, a private equity firm. At one point, Weber was in-house counsel for three companies–Viasystems, International Wire Group (IWG), and Courtesy Corporation. After the economic downturn of 2001, all three companies ended up going through bankruptcy.
“If you want to earn your stripes as a corporate attorney, handle a bankruptcy,” he says. “It helps you understand the core competencies of the business, the critical assets and liabilities, and the interplay between the legal and business variables. There really is no better way to get up to speed on all of that than to go through a financial dissolution.”
While managing IWG’s bankruptcy, Weber also handled a mass tort litigation with potential liability of more than $250 million. “I was in my early thirties, so this gave me a chance to cut my teeth on lots of pieces of the legal puzzle. We managed to protect IWG’s equity holders’ interest and recoup some value for the shareholders, while expunging the majority of the liability for IWG,” he says. “I didn’t sleep much in those years, but I sure learned a lot.”
Today, Weber brings his well-rounded experience to just one financially sound company–TTM. To prioritize projects, he and his team regularly engage with colleagues throughout the company to assess needs and define expectations. “You have to identify and maintain regular touch points with critical internal stakeholders to be effective in this job,” Weber says.
For instance, after identifying inefficiencies in Viasystems’ and TTM’s process for protecting important confidential data for their military customers, Weber’s legal group partnered with the IT department to develop a better system.
“We saw a need, and we dove in to help solve the problem. Our old system was effective, but inefficient. The new tool allows our customers to properly classify specific data as military and confidentially input that data onto our secure network at the very beginning of the engagement,” Weber says. “This allows us to isolate and protect that data more efficiently. The resulting improvement demonstrates the importance of the legal department staying close to the needs of the business.”
Though Weber is in general a pretty easygoing guy, he admits he is a stickler when it comes to deadlines. “I want to always beat them,” he laughs. “This is a $3 billion, publicly traded multinational with 30,000 employees. We aren’t advancing the business if we are a bottleneck. I will not allow the legal team to be an administrative black hole or the department of ‘no.’”
Weber’s goal is to provide business-oriented solutions to the company. “We want to make everyone’s job easier and customer interactions more productive, to be a help rather than a hindrance, and to encourage our colleagues to involve us early and often,” he says. “That’s why we made the legal department’s motto: ‘To serve, support, advise, prevent, prepare, and protect.’ They’re not just words to us; they’re our whole reason for being.”
Photo by Lauren Smyth