Taking Center Court
This summer, Suzanne Spellacy ’92 became general counsel of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx
Twenty years ago, Suzanne Spellacy ’92 had a difficult choice to make: stay in Minneapolis with the commercial law firm she had worked at for eight years, or take a job as an in-house lawyer for a company in her hometown of Mankato, Minnesota, population 42,000.
While Spellacy liked her job at Winthrop & Weinstine, she believed the slower pace of a small city might be best for her young children. “I felt I might be giving up a chance at an exciting legal career for the good of my family,” she recalls.
Ultimately, Spellacy accepted the Mankato job at Taylor Corp., a printing company owned by billion- aire Glen Taylor, who also owned the Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx basketball teams. In life, as in basketball, timing is everything, and Spellacy’s could not have been better; Taylor was about to go on a tear.
After Spellacy joined in 2000, Taylor began buying up dozens of smaller printing and graphic design firms around the world. In 2014, Taylor bought theStar Tribune. As Taylor acquired or started companies in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Britain, India, and the Philippines, Spellacy was deeply enmeshed in the details, working on dozens of deals and a wide range of legal issues: compliance, risk management, litigation, employment law, and, of course, contracts.
Reflecting Back to Minnesota Law
When negotiating contracts, Spellacy often thought about lessons learned as a Minnesota Law student. During a mock dialogue, Professor John Matheson told the story of business partners who began as friends, built a company, but failed to consider what might happen when conflicts arose. The story had a sad ending: the friends became bitter enemies.
Throughout the course, Spellacy realized this kind of strategic, forward thinking appealed to her. “Maybe this is for me,” she thought. “How does one anticipate the conse- quences of legal decisions made today? I could see myself spending the rest of my career thinking about issues like this, and it turns out I was right.” Asked about other influential professors, Spellacy quickly recalls the names of several teachers who influenced her legal thinking, including Stephen Befort ’74, a national authority on labor and employment law. At Minnesota Law, she graduated magna cum laudeand was a staff member at the Journal of Law and Inequality.
Making the Leadership Team
After joining Taylor, Spellacy rose through the ranks, becoming vice president of human resources, assistant general counsel, then general counsel. As general counsel, she supervised a staff of 15, oversee- ing the legal work of more than 50 consolidated subsidiaries. In 2019, Spellacy switched companies, becoming general counsel at Jack Link’s Protein Snacks in Minneapolis.
This summer, Spellacy accepted the role of general counsel of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx. She now spends her time working on the team responses to the COVID-19 crisis, negotiating sponsorship agreements, and grappling with employment law and intellectual property law issues. She also serves as a member of the executive team and on the Women in Sports Careers steering committee.
“The leadership team here is exceptional,” she says. “I’m really enjoying it.”
Todd Melby is a Twin Cities-based freelance writer.