Angelo Chaclas – Trinseo

CLO directs sustainable growth strategy at Trinseo

When Angelo Chaclas was in law school, he never dreamed he’d one day be helping turn trash into treasure.

But as senior vice president, chief legal officer, chief compliance officer and corporate secretary of Trinseo, a global specialty materials provider of plastics and latex binders, Chaclas has led the company through three recent acquisitions and one divestiture. That includes the addition of Heathland, a Netherlands-based plastic waste collector and recycler.

Chaclas says the acquisition of the recycling company reveals one facet of Trinseo’s two-pronged strategy.

Angelo Chaclas | Senior VP, Chief Legal Officer, Chief Compliance Officer and Corporate Secretary | Trinseo

Angelo Chaclas | Senior VP, Chief Legal Officer, Chief Compliance Officer and Corporate Secretary | Trinseo

“Part of Trinseo’s sustainability story is, hey, if we can get access to good, high-quality waste streams, keep them out of landfills, improve the quality of the post-consumer materials that we get, then we can have lower carbon intensity and more post-consumer recycle in our own products,” he explains. “It’s like turning trash into treasure where we tailor and tune the waste to optimize our downstream products.”

Trinseo’s leadership is excited about sustainability, Chaclas says; the company named a chief sustainability officer, Francesca Reverberi, in 2021. In addition to the Heathland acquisition, Trinseo also recently acquired the Altuglas International business from Arkema, including the PLEXIGLAS® and ALTUGLAS™ brands, and Aristech Surfaces, a manufacturer of polymethyl methacrylates used in everything from hot tubs to countertops. And it has wasted no time applying the technology it gained from those acquisitions.

Today Trinseo is manufacturing materials that become products like the taillights used in many types of cars. The company’s new series of recycled, reused and bio-based materials includes acrylic sheets and acrylic resins that are also useful for interior design, furniture and construction products.

Greater than the sum of their parts

Among other duties, Chaclas handles all the transaction documents and diligence for Trinseo’s mergers and acquisitions. Whether that involves share and asset purchase agreements, supply agreements, transition services agreements, labor issues, entity management or governance, he negotiates and oversees the documents.

According to Chaclas, Trinseo’s growth strategy is to move closer to the end customer as a materials provider and to pivot toward sustainability. While it’s a business-to-business company, Trinseo wants to provide materials with an awareness of what customers will ultimately do with them. It’s a tailored, application-specific approach, Chaclas says—in other words, Trinseo doesn’t just want to sell flour, sugar, vanilla and all the other ingredients of a cake.

Angelo Chaclas | Senior VP, Chief Legal Officer, Chief Compliance Officer and Corporate Secretary | Trinseo

Left to right (all with Trinseo)
Mark Edwards – Chief IP Counsel, New Jersey
Angelo Chaclas – SVP, Chief Legal Officer, Chief Compliance Officer & Corporate Secretary, Wayne, PA
Shannan Callahan – Assoc. General Counsel, Wayne, PA

“Everybody else can sell sugar and flour, too,” he says. “We want to help you bake a custom wedding cake, or a custom birthday cake, or a custom retirement cake, or whatever kind of cake you want.”

As for the sustainability piece, the goal is to fine-tune post-consumer recycling so it meets Trinseo’s needs. And Trinseo has gained those capabilities through acquisitions like Heathland, which was the kind of win-win Chaclas is always looking for: it put together two companies whose merger is stronger than the sum of their parts.

“If we could’ve gotten from the market the access to be able to regiment that post-consumer waste stream the way we wanted it, we wouldn’t have had to buy a company,” Chaclas says. “But we couldn’t get it. We think through owning the company and making investments in those areas, that we can then drive it and tune it.”

Multinational company, global workforce

Trinseo is a mid-cap multinational public company, and perhaps nowhere is its global nature better illustrated than in its legal department. The team of ten attorneys and other legal staff is spread across three continents. They’re in Ireland, Germany, Italy, Singapore, Switzerland and, within the U.S., New Jersey, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

“Why would we put attorneys in Singapore if Asia Pacific wasn’t important to us? Why would we have a third of our legal department in Europe if Europe wasn’t important?” Chaclas says. “And they’re not all sitting in one big ivory tower in Europe; they’re scattered where we have significant touchpoints.”

Angelo Chaclas | Senior VP, Chief Legal Officer, Chief Compliance Officer and Corporate Secretary | Trinseo

Trinseo acrylic resins and sheets have been specially designed for the manufacture of high-quality bathtubs, shower trays and spas.

Leading a far-flung team has its challenges, but Chaclas relies on Microsoft Teams calls to coordinate Trinseo’s legal efforts. He does 20 group calls a year—10 calls with the attorneys and 10 with the full department—and one-on-one calls either weekly or biweekly. He makes sure everyone turns their cameras on, celebrates birthdays and shares vacation photos, so that people get that sense of connection even across oceans and time zones.

And Chaclas is not a fan of the hub-and-spoke model of group engagement. These days, in his view, it’s all about collaboration.

“Sometimes I refer to myself as the bumblebee, the cross-pollinator,” he says. “So, if I’m in a one-on-one call, I say, ‘Oh, you know, you need to talk to so-and-so, make sure you guys link up and figure this out.’ I try to make the connections if folks haven’t figured them out automatically.”

Drawing on his roots

Chaclas didn’t actually set out to be a lawyer. He was working toward his master’s degree in engineering when he realized that he was only ever going to be an average engineer. And he wanted to be exceptional at what he did.

So he took stock of other grad school options. He wasn’t interested in business school. He believed he would never survive medical school. That left law school. After getting his B.S. from Tufts University, Chaclas earned his J.D. from Pace University.

“I didn’t get out of law school until I was in my thirties, so I was a little bit older,” he says. “But I love what I do. I like putting things together. I like making connections. I like thinking about how things can be better in the future. I’ve always been enthusiastic about what I do.”

Angelo Chaclas | Senior VP, Chief Legal Officer, Chief Compliance Officer and Corporate Secretary | Trinseo

The Trinseo legal team. Pictured, left to right:
Shannan Callahan – Assoc. General Counsel, Wayne, PA
Erik Johnson – Assoc. General Counsel, Wayne, PA
Anna Raecke – Senior Counsel, Eschborn, Germany
Ewan Schneider – Senior Counsel, Dublin, Ireland
Angelo Chaclas – SVP, Chief Legal Officer, Chief Compliance Officer & Corporate Secretary, Wayne, PA
Nick Rems – Counsel, Wayne, PA
Cheryl Chen Bin Xu – Counsel, Singapore
Danielle Floros – Assoc. General Counsel, Michigan
Dauchi Chu – Counsel, Rho, Italy
Mark Edwards – Chief IP Counsel, New Jersey

Chaclas took his first in-house role in 1996. In 2001, he became vice president and deputy general counsel of IP and technology law at Pitney Bowes, an ecommerce, shipping and financial services company. He rose to vice president, chief counsel of software and IP there by 2010.

In late 2010, Chaclas joined Trinseo as associate general counsel, chief IP counsel and division general counsel. He assumed his current role in 2015.

“Trinseo brought me to an industry where the combination of my engineering background and the materials science that Trinseo does turned out to be a better fit than I thought,” Chaclas says. “So, I’m a little closer to the products than a lot of folks, because that engineer part of me is still in the background there, informing me, helping me along the way.”

View this feature in the Vanguard Summer III 2023 Edition here.

Published on: June 22, 2023



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