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Mar 15, 2024

Governance ‘godfather’ Ira Millstein dies

Millstein described as ‘legend’ of corporate governance

Ira Millstein, a ‘legend’ in the corporate governance world, senior partner with Weil Gotshal & Manges and founding chair of The Millstein Center for Global Markets and Corporate Ownership at Columbia Law School, has died aged 97, his firm has announced.

Weil executive partner Barry Wolf says in a statement: ‘The legal community has lost a true visionary. We mourn the loss of our partner and friend and celebrate his achievements and his role in shaping Weil into the firm it is today.’

The Council of Institutional Investors (CII) says in a statement: ‘Ira Millstein was widely, and rightly, known as the ‘godfather’ of corporate governance. At law firm Weil Gotshal & Manges, he advised numerous companies and boards on effective governance practices and he championed active, responsive boards and engagement between shareholders, boards and management. His book, The Activist Investor, was a roadmap for responsible governance…

‘Speaking at a CII conference in New York in 1987, he urged CII members to focus not just on anti-takeover devices, but also on corporate performance. Ira Millstein believed public companies and pension fund investors had a shared interest in long investment horizons and in ensuring long-term performance. Company management and long-term shareholders needed to connect with each other.

‘[His] speech was credited by Dale Hanson, then-CEO of [CalPERS], with turning CalPERS – and the investor corporate governance movement more generally – to focus on performance and board effectiveness.’


Ira Millstein
Ira Millstein

‘Someone you want in your corner’
In a tribute to Millstein, Governance Intelligence wrote the following when he was honored with the 2022 Corporate Governance Awards lifetime achievement award:

‘Ira Millstein is a legend. He is someone you want in your corner if your company is facing a sticky situation. The Wall Street Journal has described him as one of Wall Street’s most powerful lawyers,’ said Prabha Sipi Bhandari, senior vice president, deputy general counsel and corporate secretary at American International Group, in announcing the award.

During his remarkable career, Millstein advised many boards on corporate governance, with his impressive list of clients including General Motors, Westinghouse, Bethlehem Steel, WellChoice (formerly Empire Blue Cross), CalPERS, Tyco International, The Walt Disney Co and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. He also advised companies on government regulation and antitrust law, representing the likes of General Electric and Matsushita.

In addition to his legal practice, Millstein was founding chair of The Millstein Center for Global Markets and Corporate Ownership at Columbia Law School. His previous roles include senior associate dean for corporate governance and the Theodore Nierenberg Adjunct Professor of Corporate Governance at the Yale School of Management and adjunct professor at New York University School of Law.

Millstein was a frequent lecturer and author on corporate governance, antitrust and government regulation. His many publications include The Activist Director: Lessons from the boardroom and the future of the corporation.

Among many other achievements in the corporate and public realms, Millstein served from 1999 to 2005 as chair of the Private Sector Advisory Group of the Global Corporate Governance Forum founded by the World Bank and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

From 1997 to 1998, he was chair of the OECD Business Sector Advisory Group on Corporate Governance, and from 1998 to 1999 was co-chair of the Blue Ribbon Committee on Improving the Effectiveness of Corporate Audit Committees, sponsored by the NYSE and the National Association of Securities Dealers. In 1996, he chaired the National Association of Corporate Directors’ Blue Ribbon Commission on Director Professionalism.