Eric Oxley loves his work on mergers and acquisitions, but saves some time for entrepreneurs, the Creighton Bluejays, and his family too. – Photo by Michael Tran
By Matt Goodlett
Oxley Making an Impact on Many Fronts
The Daily Record
Eric Oxley spent four hours on a recent morning negotiating the sale of a company located in the United Kingdom to a company headquartered in Italy for a client based in Chicago, all from his office right here in Omaha.
Oxley said, “It’s neat to be able to do true mid-market regional, national and international M&A deals in Omaha. A large part of my practice is working on those types of transactions. And the law firm I work for, Koley Jessen, has provided the platform for me to be able to work on these types of deals.”
It’s this work that makes Oxley excited to go to the office even after eight years with Koley Jessen.
Although Oxley said he enjoys the eighty percent of his time that is spent working as a lawyer on mergers and acquisitions, another part of his career may be just as dear to him. This part of his career is more focused on Omaha and much smaller companies.
Oxley said, “Another portion of my practice is focused on start-up and emerging companies. Generally, these are newer companies that are looking for more foundational advice, such as entity selection, intellectual property protection, and seed and venture capital investments. This part of my practice is very Omaha-based, while the mergers and acquisition deals tend to be more of a regional and national scope.”
During the past few years, Oxley said, Koley Jessen has bolstered its efforts in committing to emerging businesses. “We are really trying to help people form and start their companies with a solid foundation, so they’re prepared for growth,” Oxley said.
Oxley has observed Koley Jessen grow along with its clients throughout the years, but he and others at his firm wanted to be even more accessible to the start-up and emerging business community in Omaha and the Midwest region.
He felt a need to overcome the view that a larger law firm equaled one that is economically out of the reach of emerging businesses. So Oxley, with others, started to look at ways to bridge the gap between quality legal services at an affordable rate to start-ups.
After conferring with Dusty Reynolds, the director of Entrepreneurship and Innovation with the Omaha Chamber of Commerce, Oxley saw that there was a need. Following that validation, he and his partner, Dan McMahon, led the Koley Jessen effort to be part of the emerging Mastercraft Advisors, so called for its location in North Downtown’s Mastercraft building, an area of town that Oxley describes as a hub of entrepreneurship and start-ups.
Mastercraft Advisors is made up of several businesses – Koley Jessen, Advent IP, First National Bank and Lutz – sharing an office space, with a common mission: to provide accessible and affordable professional advice for entrepreneurs, start-ups and emerging business in Omaha and the Midwest region.
The main goal of the advisors is to be present to the entire community, wherever located, so questions can be answered.
He explained if people want to engage the advisors for substantive work there’s usually a flat or alternative fee structure for that, but said, “It’s more to be a sounding board for people who have those initial questions and don’t have lawyers or other professional advisors to call.”
As an outreach, the Mastercraft Advisors also provides a lunch and learn series, where a different aspect of starting or running a company is discussed. In January, Koley Jessen made a presentation on venture capital term sheets, and several upcoming topics are now on the Mastercraft Advisors website at www.mastercraftadvisors.com. (Koley Jessen’s next presentation is on The Independent Contractor v. Employee Conundrum: Avoiding Misclassification on Wednesday, April 17.)
“I like being part of the emerging and start-up community, because it really gives me a sense of home. So much of my mergers and acquisitions practice is more regional or national in scope, and this platform really focuses on Omaha businesses,” he said.
Oxley said that the largest deal he’s closed in mergers and acquisitions was for $290 million, for a Chicago-based client. His typical deals fall in the $5 to $150 million range.
He said, “I love the thrill and pace of a deal. It’s definitely one of my passions. It’s kept me very interested and motivated for the past eight years.”
A season ticket holder (and undergraduate in business administration) of the Creighton Bluejays, Oxley is a big sports fan, and even plans to follow Creighton with his wife in their post-season as they progress, hopefully, to the Final Four. One aspect of his career coincides nicely with his enthusiasm for sports.
Oxley was recently appointed to the board of College World Series, Inc., the local organization that works with the NCAA to put on the College World Series. Several years back, he helped negotiate the 25-year deal that kept the College World Series in Omaha. He worked on that deal alongside the late Paul Jessen who was a founder and president of Koley Jessen.
“I’ve always been a fan of the CWS, so it is very exciting for me to now be able to serve as a member of the board of directors, as well as its legal counsel,” Oxley said.
He said he sees the value in the CWS beyond a pure love of sports. Oxley says, “It’s such a great event for Omaha because of the economic impact and the national exposure that comes with hosting the event. It gives Omaha one more thing that we can be recognized for.”
After earning his degree in finance at Creighton, Oxley earned his law degree (magna cum laude) from The Catholic University of America. Prior to joining Koley Jessen, Oxley was a law clerk for the United States Securities and Exchange Commission as well as the United States House of Representatives House Committee on Financial Services. He’s a member of the Nebraska and Omaha Bar Associations.
Oxley thinks he’s figured out a formula between work and life that allows him to enjoy time with his wife and three children, but he still also manages to serve on the local Leadership Council for the American Lung Association and is active in its annual Omaha Corporate Cup event.
It’s safe to say that, with his many accomplishments, Oxley has made an impression during his short career, but he said what he’s most proud of professionally is Koley Jessen.
“I love this place because of how it gives back to Omaha. So many of my partners and associates serve on boards and give to charity and that’s a huge part of our culture,” Oxley said. “It’s so great to go to work, do what you love and have a great career, but to also work at a place that gives back.”
Oxley said he also believes he’s had an impact. “Throughout my career, even as a younger lawyer, I felt that my voice has truly been heard and my thoughts and ideas considered and often times implemented – that’s just our culture.”
He sees the Mastercraft Advisors as having a positive impact, as well. “I think it could really have an impact on entrepreneurs and emerging companies. My hope is that our efforts will contribute in some way to the continued growth of Omaha, which has a direct correlation with our firm’s mission.”
All indications show that Oxley has a long career ahead of him. It’s likely to grow as Omaha does and leave an impression on the city he calls home.