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The art of the sale: WHD’s Karch enjoys guiding businesses

The art of the sale: WHD’s Karch enjoys guiding businesses

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Paul Karch (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)
Paul Karch (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)

Paul Karch finds deep satisfaction helping his clients realize a life-long goal — selling a business.

“It’s wonderful to help people who have built up a business over the years and now they’re ready to sell it and you’re helping them through one of the most important transactions of their lives,” said Karch, a shareholder in the Madison office of Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek S.C. “It’s great to see people realize their success.”

Karch said education plays a big role in the sale process as he helps clients understand the sale process.

“You have to help people feel comfortable in what’s going on,” he said.

Before going into private practice in 2006, Karch served as general counsel and vice president for Appleton Papers, now known Appvion. While there, he guided a project team that created and funded an ESOP to acquire the company from its European owners.

“A lot of the work is similar between being an in-house attorney and working at a firm,” Karch said. “The big difference is when you’re in-house, there is one client and you’re focused solely on them. At the firm, I have many clients and everyone is a high priority. That’s more of a challenge, but I really enjoy learning about the different businesses and how they work.”

About half of Karch’s practice is dedicated to mergers and acquisitions, with the remainder focused on cooperatives and ESOPs. With all of his clients, he helps with designing innovative complex transactions, developing and implementing strategic plans and creating governance structures.

“I really like the intersection of business and the law, so I’ve landed in the perfect spot,” he said.

Wisconsin Law Journal: What makes your work important to you?
Paul Karch: Helping clients succeed in their businesses by understanding and entering into effective transactions and resolving or avoiding legal problems.

WLJ: Who is your hero in the legal field?
Karch: My brother, a Chicago tax lawyer who is so smart he can explain complex tax issues to a second-grader and so modest that few of his friends and family know the size and scope of his expertise.

WLJ: What do you do outside of work to deal with stress from the office?
Karch: I ride my bike to and from work, go for long walks with my family and watch ‘Last Week Tonight.’

WLJ: What’s one thing many people get wrong about what you do?
Karch: That we are all about being aggressive and fighting for advantage. In many transactions and much counseling, it is more important to openly listen to and understand interests and to unravel complicated problems and issues than to push on the other side in a zero-sum game.

WLJ: What’s your favorite memory from law school?
Karch: Late semester criminal law class with Charles Nesson. When we all showed up with beer, he looked at us angrily and rushed from the lecture hall. We buzzed around for a few minutes wondering about the career-limiting nature of our bright idea, until Nesson came back with a book of Lenny Bruce jokes, which he read through the class hour.

WLJ: Is there a certain case that stands out to you?
Karch: Not a case but the Appleton Papers ESOP deal, where I worked with the team that acquired the paper company from its English parent through an Employee Stock Ownership Plan, which provided substantial additional retirement savings and continued good jobs to over 1,500 friends and neighbors in the Fox Valley.

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