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Ripley serves as a strong leader at MillerCoors

By: Rick Benedict//June 23, 2011//

Ripley serves as a strong leader at MillerCoors

By: Rick Benedict//June 23, 2011//

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(Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)

Karen Ripley loves working for a company that sells beer.

As head of the legal department for MillerCoors LLC, she oversees everything from negotiating sponsorship deals with sports franchises to consumer sweepstakes.

The job is every bit as exciting as it seems, Ripley said.

“I have yet to meet an attorney who doesn’t want my job,” she said.

Her legal work with Miller dates back more than 20 years, to when she was working as outside counsel for Quarles & Brady LLP. Since the merger between SAB Miller and Molson Coors three years ago, Ripley has been busy blending two legal departments that were split between Milwaukee and Golden, Colo. into one legal team, headquartered in Chicago.

Ripley, a Muskego native, moved to the Windy City in 2009 to oversee the 30-person legal department, half of which are women.

“I never take the lawyer hat off, but the job is very business oriented,” Ripley said.

Ripley work on other project as well, such as sponsoring the Chicago Employee Affinity Group, an organization that coordinates and supports local initiatives such as the Susan G. Komen Walk for the Cure.

She is a member of the company’s senior leadership team, tasked with giving MillerCoors direction.

One of those elements includes being co-creator of the MillerCoors Women Mentoring Circle, which helped create space for 45 women within the company’s sales division.

Coworkers said Ripley is especially known for her mentoring capabilities and has a knack for looking at things from a business, human and regulatory perspective.

Michelle Nettles, MillerCoors senior director for business diversity and partnerships, was hired by Ripley more than a decade ago. She said Ripley helped her navigate the politics of the organization and become a trusted advisor.

“As a boss Karen has an amazing ability to coach people and get young lawyers very comfortable with being counselors and not just lawyers,” Nettles said.

Ripley said she relishes the ability to be a tough but fair leader, especially to younger employees.

“I am very much interested in pushing the envelope as to what the role of in-house counsel means,” she said.


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