Business & Practice

W.R. Grace Hires New General Counsel Amid Takeover Bid

Jan. 13, 2021, 9:43 PM

W.R. Grace announced this week that former McCormick & Co. lawyer Cherée Johnson has been appointed the chemical company’s new senior vice president, general counsel, corporate secretary, and chief ethics and compliance officer.

“Cherée is a results-oriented business leader. Her deep legal knowledge and broad experience make her an exceptional addition to our leadership team,” said Grace’s president and CEO Hudson La Force in a Tuesday statement.

Johnson replaces former general counsel Mark Shelnitz who retired in December after nearly four decades with the Columbia, Md.-based company.

During his tenure, Shelnitz shepherded the company through 12 years of Chapter 11 bankruptcy restructurings caused by asbestos liabilities. Grace ultimately paid over $63 million to the U.S. government to cover environmental cleanups and established two trusts dedicated to asbestos personal injury claims. Grace emerged from court protection in 2014.

Johnson will have plenty on her plate as Grace’s board is considering a $4.3 billion buyout offer from investment platform and shareholder 40 North Managment LLC, an investment arm of Standard Industries, Inc. Grace represented by Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz in the matter, the company said in a statement.

Grace turned down a lower bid from 40 North in November, claiming the previous $4 billion bid undervalued the company. Sullivan & Cromwell is advising 40 North on the attempted buyout, according to a Jan. 11 securities filing. Johnson and W.R. Grace declined to comment on the bid.

Johnson was most recently the vice president and deputy general counsel of Baltimore-based food company McCormick, where she worked for six years. She has also held a variety of roles at companies like Gerson Lehrman Group’s Law business, The Kraft Heinz Co., Cargill, Inc., and 3M.

She is also on the board of advisors for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ruiqi Chen in Washington, D.C. at rchen@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rebekah Mintzer at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com; Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com

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