Looking For New Business

November 29, 1993|By Gary Cohn | Gary Cohn,Staff Writer

Several years ago, Edward S. Civera was hired as a financial expert in the case of a teen-age boy who had been electrocuted on a farm. The utility company admitted it was at fault, but because the boy was a slow learner, the family wasn't expected to get much of a settlement.

But Mr. Civera came up with a novel strategy. He argued that the boy was a 4-H winner and so, despite his learning disabilities, he would have been able to run a dairy farm. Mr. Civera's argument carried the day, and he was able to help get the boy's family a $2 million settlement.

That kind of resourcefulness will come in particularly handy now, as the 43-year-old Mr. Civera takes his new job as managing partner of Coopers & Lybrand's Baltimore office.

As managing partner, Mr. Civera will preside over an office with about 200 employees, including 14 partners, the third-largest accounting firm in Baltimore. The office provides accounting, financial and tax advice to financial services and high-technology companies, among others, and is becoming increasingly vTC involved with health care firms.

He succeeds James W. Zug. Mr. Zug, who headed the Baltimore office for the past seven years and was responsible for generating new clients and developing new partners, has moved to the Philadelphia office where he will work in the firm's international division.

"The priorities will be to develop the firm's ability to consult with clients on special transactions ranging from health care to the financial services and high-technology industries," Mr. Civera said.

In particular, he said, "health care reform is going to transform the business community. It will provide significant work for us."

Such challenges are nothing new to Mr. Civera, who has worked at Coopers since 1972.

Mr. Civera, a native of Philadelphia, started working at Coopers' office in Philadelphia after studying accounting at St. Joseph's University. Attending night school, he earned his MBA in 1978, before transferring to the firm's Pittsburgh office and working full time with a new client, Gulf Oil Corp. In 1982, Mr. Civera was named a partner and assigned to work on mergers and acquisitions.

In 1989, he testified as an expert witness on behalf of Ross Perot when Mr. Perot was sued by General Motors Corp. for allegedly violating a non-compete agreement. He later helped develop the capital structure for Mr. Perot's new company, Perot Systems Corp. of Reston, Va. For the past five years, he was managing partner of a new high-technology practice based in Tysons Corner, Va., and Rockville.

Mr. Civera moved into his job here last month.

Mr. Civera, who is married with two children, said he also plans to become involved with civic organizations in Baltimore. While based in the Washington area, he served on the boards of the Washington Opera and Wolf Trap. In Baltimore, he is already on the board of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and he is interested in working with the Walters Art Gallery and Maryland Science Center.

"It's good for business -- both Baltimore's business and Coopers & Lybrand's business for the arts and other community organizations to be strong in the city," Mr. Civera said.

Mr. Civera and his firm are particularly interested in developing new business in the health care area. With President Clinton seeking to reform the $900-billion-a-year health care system, opportunities for accounting firms are ample everywhere -- but maybe nowhere more so than in Baltimore, because of a concentration of hospitals and other health care facilities in the area.

"Hospitals will have to be run more like a business," said Mr. Civera. "They will be concerned about whether they have the ability to be competitive on a cost basis. One of the things we'll help them do is analyze their costs and reduce their expenses."

To attract hospitals and other health care providers, Coopers will do free demonstration projects free of charge to show how the firm can help them become more efficient.

Also, Coopers will try to show hospitals that they can make money by transforming facilities such as their medical laboratories into commercial businesses.

In all, it is a challenge that Mr. Civera relishes.

On a recent day, Mr. Civera sat in the conference room on the 18th floor of Redwood Tower and discussed his new job and the path that took him there. "I wasn't going to work as a concert violinist and brain surgery was out," he joked.

Then, pausing to reflect, he said, "What I would like to be known as is somebody who helped out with important and complicated business transactions."

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