Alec Wightman '75, Steve Kestner '79: Balancing Act Impresarios
|Alec Wightman with (left to right) daughter Emily, daughter Nora and wife Kathy|
Named Baker & Hostetler co-executive partners in January 2004, Alec Wightman '75 and Steve Kestner '79 both say they couldn't have asked for a better first year.
"Steve and I are good friends," Columbus-based Alec says. "We've had a long run of working together in a management capacity. We've had a wonderful first year as executive partners." While Alec handles the human resources and client relations aspects of the business, Steve oversees the firm's finances, operations, and strategic growth. "Alec and I have known each other for a long time. It was a good year for the firm, which makes everything easier," says Steve, who works out of the Cleveland office.
Despite the demands of executive responsibilities, both maintain active lives away from the office. For Alec, that means organizing and promoting concerts at the Columbus Music Hall, something he has done for the past 10 years. "I try not to lose too much money promoting concerts," Alec says of his side work, adding a laugh. "But, I have more fun than any human should be allowed. I've always had a passion for music, ever since I was a kid. I listened to it morning, noon and night, especially singer-songwriters."
In 1995, Alec contacted several local promoters in hopes of bringing singer-songwriter Tom Russell, one of his personal favorites, to Columbus. Having no luck, Russell encouraged Alec to organize and promote a show himself. Alec took the challenge, securing space at the Columbus Music Hall and selling 99 tickets. His second "profession" was born.
"I have two requirements for artists," Alec says. "They have to have great music and they have to be nice people." Roughly a half-dozen times a year Alec brings in artists he likes for a show. Using only an e-mail mailing list, he routinely sells out the 180-seat venue. At the shows, Alec's family staffs the ticket booth and CD sales.
The next concert will be February 11, featuring Kieran Kane, Kevin Welch and multi-instrumentalist Fats Kaplin. Kane and Welch will be making their fourth visit to Columbus at Alec's invitation. Repeat visits are common, he says. "To bring this quality of music to a listening room environment is incredible. It's a great venue with a great crowd. The musicians call it the best gig in the industry."
Alec took on another responsibility this year. His work in both the music world and on the foundation board of OSU's James Cancer Hospital led to an invitation to join the board of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He is chairing a new development committee that will work to build an endowment for the Hall. "I jumped at the chance," Alec says, adding that with 2005 marking the 10th anniversary of the Hall of Fame, he anticipates a busy year filled with fundraisers and other activities.
| Left to right are Steve Kestner, son Alex,
son Joe, wife Denise and son Jonathan
For Steve, being away from the office means being active with his sons, Alex, 21, Jonathan, 18, and Joe, 16, and spending time outdoors. "There's a lot of hockey," he says, with Jonathan playing as a freshman at Tufts University in Boston and Joe playing at University School in Cleveland. "I used to coach when the boys were young, but now I'm a full-time spectator. When we're not in the rinks, we try to get out as a family. The two youngest are snowboarders."
Steve and Denise, his wife of 24 years, are often on the road visiting Jonathan in Boston and Alex at Wesleyan University in Connecticut.
Their northeast Ohio location is not only a convenient hub for visiting their sons, but also for pursuing Steve's other passions, fishing and hunting. He is an avid fly-fisherman, traveling throughout Ohio, Michigan and western Pennsylvania in search of trout. Steve also makes time for hunting pheasant and quail. When on skiing trips in the western U.S., he says he tries to slip away for a fishing or hunting sojourn.
"Out in the woods, there is a lot of walking," Steve says. "If you don't catch or bag anything, that's fine, because it is still a great time. That's my release."
Steve says achieving balance is easy, with a calendar. "You set it up. You make the time. Then, you do it. That's the key," he says. "I like being busy. I'm not someone who can sit still very much."
In keeping with that philosophy, Steve also serves on the Board of Trustees of the world-class Cleveland Museum of Art. "It is very interesting. We're in the process of looking at a significant renovation and construction project."
Baker & Hostetler has 1,400 employees, including almost 600 lawyers, and 10 offices nationwide, serving clients such as Cardinal Health Inc., Ford Motor Company, General Electric Company, and The Progressive Corporation. Alec, whose background is in general corporate practice, has been with the firm since 1982. He has served on the firm's Policy Committee and was the firm's legal services partner from 1993 to 2003. Steve, whose background is in mergers and acquisitions and securities work, has been at the firm since 1978, most recently working on the firm's Policy Committee and as firmwide chair of its business group. "I wasn't sure if I wanted to be in a firm or corporation," Steve says. "I gave this a try. That was 25 years ago."
At the time of their joint promotion, Gary Bryenton, outgoing executive partner, said both were "talented and accomplished attorneys whose combined knowledge will continue to guide the firm toward higher levels of performance." He was right.