Features

Ilse Moreno – JCDecaux Top Media

Legal director leaves homeland behind for her dream job

It takes courage to leave everything you’ve ever known behind and start over in a new country, but it takes a special kind of person to pull that off amid a global pandemic.

A little more than three years ago, in early 2020, Ilse Moreno packed up all her belongings, put her then-13-year-old dog Lolo and then-7-year-old dog Salma in crates and flew from Mexico City to Panama City. She was moving at the request of her boss at Paris-based JCDecaux Media, the world’s largest outdoor advertising company, where she is now legal director for Central America, the Caribbean, Argentina and Uruguay.

Ilse Moreno | Legal Director, Central America, Caribbean, Argentina & Uruguay | JCDecaux Top Media

Ilse Moreno | Legal Director, Central America, Caribbean, Argentina & Uruguay | JCDecaux Top Media

“Basically, I was living in Mexico for all of my life, so it was a big change for me,” Moreno says. “I came all alone. I didn’t know anyone. And then the pandemic came, so there were two very complicated years at the beginning.”

But Moreno found it easy to adjust to Panama, a safer country than the one she grew up in, where the locals were welcoming and she loved her job. Today, Moreno has settled into life in Panama City, where she says roughly half the population is comprised of expatriates.

“It’s amazing,” she says. “That’s what I like the most, maybe. You get to know all kinds of different people.”

Seeing what’s inside other companies

JCDecaux specializes in street furniture advertising (think bus stop benches and bus shelters), transportation advertising (think indoor and outdoor advertising at airports) and billboards. A global leader in its industry, it does business in more than 80 countries spread across six continents.

Moreno’s job, which has changed her life—not to mention Lolo’s and Salma’s; her dogs are much happier with Panama’s weather—is different every day. But the legal director’s specialty is mergers and acquisitions. When she spoke to Vanguard in March, she had two such projects in the works.

When JCDecaux is considering an acquisition, Moreno receives a request through her boss from the corporate office in France, and then her team launches the due diligence process. Once they have gathered the information they need, Moreno drafts an M&A agreement.

Ilse Moreno | Legal Director, Central America, Caribbean, Argentina & Uruguay | JCDecaux Top Media

As Moreno sees it, buying a company is a lot like buying a house. You might want to know if, say, someone died there, but you might have to ask a lot of questions to find that out. Similarly, it often takes years for Moreno, her boss and her team, with the help of external counsel, to gather all the information they need about a company their corporate office is eyeing. They’re looking for red flags, making sure there won’t be a surprise down the road.

“It sounds pretty basic, but it’s really interesting once you are doing it,” she says. “It’s fascinating to see what’s inside a company that’s not part of your group. It’s like an investigation: You start to discover what the company has been doing for the last 20 or 10 years. And you see how that company will complement our business.”

The last acquisition Moreno completed took nearly three years to get to closing. She says it’s a common misconception that mergers and acquisitions are relatively straightforward.

Finding her dream job

The daughter of a lawyer who worked in the compliance departments of multiple governmental offices in Mexico, Moreno always looked up to her mom and wanted to follow in her footsteps.

“It wasn’t hard for me to choose [a career],” she says. “I always was watching what she was reading or what she was doing. So I pretty much asked her everything when I was younger. And that’s how I became a lawyer.”

But Moreno, who has long been interested in corporate law, followed her own path after graduating law school at the Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey. She started her career in litigation, joining González Avelar & Asociados in 2003 and Ojeda & Vega in 2004.

Ilse Moreno | Legal Director, Central America, Caribbean, Argentina & Uruguay | JCDecaux Top Media

She found that she didn’t like the combative nature of litigation, and so in 2007, she moved into corporate law, serving as a legal manager at OCESA, Mexico’s largest entertainment company with interests in theaters, concerts, racing and so forth. This involved reviewing many different kinds of agreements and contracts.

In 2011, she became a legal manager at Pernod Ricard Mexico, rising to legal director by 2013. That was followed by a stint at Thomson Reuters, where she stayed until joining JCDecaux Mexico in April 2015.

While Moreno didn’t always have an easy go of it—she had to leave a previous job because of a problematic boss, for example—she is grateful for where she finds herself today.

“It took a while for me to restart and make a path for myself again, but then I found this company, so maybe it all happened for a reason,” she says. “I’m really very happy here.”

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

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