Chris Correnti – AGC America, Inc.
That sentiment was put to the test during the pandemic.
Given the economic variables during COVID-19, Correnti says making sound business decisions is a matter of information and timing. It’s a formula that was critical to keeping the North America branch of AGC—a 110-year-old Japanese company (and the world’s largest glass manufacturer)—running smoothly.
In addition to high-tech building and industrial glass production, other divisions under the legal team’s care include automotive, chemical, life sciences, soda ash, and two electronics businesses (involved in the electronics and high-speed communications).
Despite marketplace volatility caused by COVID-19, Correnti says AGC is redefining its North American businesses. It spun off its architectural glass manufacturing business in favor of investing more in life sciences, as well as growth areas like mobility and electronics.
To make it happen, Correnti negotiated the sales agreement and led all the legal aspects of the deal. At the same time, AGC’s North American legal team is supporting new acquisitions in electronics and life sciences.
“Strategic decisions must be made to open up new opportunities as they present themselves,” Correnti says. “We have to be able to shift gears.”
Options and opportunity
Currently, AGC’s life science business is manufacturing proteins for pharmaceutical companies—including work with Novavax on a new COVID-19 vaccine.
AGC is also acquiring new facilities to produce these proteins for cell and gene therapies for future drug development. In addition, Correnti’s spearheading merger and acquisition activities and meeting regularly with a biology team to understand what’s needed to capitalize on opportunities.
“We’re making acquisitions globally in this highly-competitive field to grow and work with pharmaceutical companies worldwide,” he says.
Another area of development for AGC is in mobility. In cars and trucks, windows can act like computer screens. That means advertisements could run in the glass areas of taxis and buses.
The new screen technology could also be used to tint windows to control heating and cooling based on weather conditions, Correnti says. AGC’s automotive business is also fostering a technology called Wideye, which allows the front or rear cameras of automobiles to have a better view of what’s outside the vehicle.
“This will be an important development as cars move toward autonomous driving,” Correnti says.
Globally, AGC is also working on 5G antennas and coating technologies to facilitate high-speed communications through coated window glass without the loss of energy efficiency, or visible light.
“We’re looking at elements that we’ll see in a city of the future,” Correnti says.
Meanwhile, AGC’s chemicals company is producing coatings that are now on display in major sports arenas and other facilities worldwide. At Atlanta’s airport, the two glass-type canopies over the North and South entrances have a chemically coated glass film that allows light and colors to be projected, while providing increased strength to the canopy itself. The technology is also on the exterior of the soccer stadium in Mainz, Germany, and new football stadiums in Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
“These projects are changing the nature of our portfolio, generating greater returns for our shareholders and enhancing enjoyment of those facilities,” Correnti says.
Customs and communication
Part of the appeal of his job, Correnti says, is learning about technologies and supporting their development into profitable ventures for AGC.
Correnti says he was well-prepared for his varied responsibilities by working at a small law firm after graduating from Wake Forest University School of Law in 1984.
Joining Moore, Stout, Waddell & Ledford, he spent 10 years in private practice representing clients in corporate, business, trademark and environmental law; handling commercial litigation and real estate; and working on financial matters, including public bond transactions. He eventually made partner.
Part of his journey was adapting to business and client needs in different areas of the law—almost daily—requiring him to learn new legal areas like environmental and public government law.
“I was particularly proud of my work with the local Industrial Development Board in Kingsport and Hawkins County, Tennessee,” Correnti says. “I helped them bring in new businesses and opened up development parks that led to creating new jobs in the area.”
Advancement with AGC
Starting out on a two-person legal team at a company that saw almost $1 billion in annual sales, Correnti joined AGC as associate general counsel in 1994.
Eventually he began working with senior management, including those at AGC in Japan. He also worked with affiliates in Europe and Brazil on many projects—such as a joint venture in Brazil, a potential acquisition of a ceramics business in the U.S., and work on global IP coordination and compliance initiatives.
“It’s been a rich experience working with people from other cultures—all with different ways of doing business,” Correnti says. “I developed an appreciation for how they view issues here in North America, and what’s important to them. Understanding different perspectives is critical for the role I play in our company today.”
For Correnti, working with business leaders in the U.S., Canada and Mexico—in addition to those in Japan, Asia, Europe and South America—requires him to listen carefully. Complexities with COVID-19 only heightened the importance of greater communication between all parties.
“We went from a normal way of doing business, to safeguarding our employees state-by-state,” he says. “Rules changed by the hour.”
Correnti’s team dealt with “almost every issue you can imagine”: overseeing compliance and litigation; offering labor and employment advice; handling export and import control issues; not to mention real estate concerns, environmental issues and IP matters.
“If I hadn’t developed my legal background as broadly as I did, I wouldn’t have been able to manage,” Correnti says. “The latest projects will set AGC up for the next 50 years. That’s part of our excitement as a legal team—seeing what comes next, while learning about what’s involved to get us there … and how we can help our businesses succeed in these rapidly changing environments.”
View this feature in the Vanguard Fall I 2021 Edition here.
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