“I deal with people whose lives as they know them are ending.” That’s one way crisis manager Malcolm Kelso sums up his chosen profession.
Got a hundred million dollars worth of oil in the ground but having trouble buying a cup of coffee? Your friendly neighborhood banker is not so friendly anymore? Bill collectors threatening your kneecaps? Kelso is your man.
“Businessmen are used to managing their business, be it real estate, oil and gas, whatever.” Kelso says. “Most of them have never had a financial crisis, so they’re not used to dealing with adversity.”
Kelso, however, is an expert on adversity; he’s been thriving on it for years. In 1975, then living in San Francisco, he formed Legal Econometrics, a company that provided financial services to law firms in complex litigation, Kelso would come in. analyze the damages, and let the legal jocks know exactly what they were fighting for-in dollar figures. In 1982, he came to Dallas to collect a fee in a bankruptcy case and met the woman he would eventually marry. The next year, he moved to Dallas with two thoughts (besides marriage) in mind: to spend half of his time in crisis consulting, and to spend the other half buying companies in trouble and managing them through the process. Unintentionally. Kelso had relocated to perhaps the best market in the world for his particular business. Dallas bankruptcies are his ambrosia. Right now. he has about a billion dollars worth of financial ruin on his hands (primarily clients in real estate and oil and gas), and he’s smiling all the way to the bank.
So. how does Malcolm Kelso get a client out of a fix? He explores the options-litigation, bankruptcy, negotiation. Kelso says he has spent millions on lawyers for his various cases, but he stresses that litigation isn’t the only way out.
“The way some people in Dallas are dispersing their assets over their liabilities is just nonsense. You just have to tell people the truth a lot. There’s not much they can say to you once you tell them there’s no money,” Kelso says.
When he has to negotiate.. .well. some of Kelso’s clients call him The Assassin. He laughs at the description, but he admits that he’s pretty good at table pounding when it’s time for that kind of thing.
“I can be tough, but I really believe that you can do very aggressive and threatening things to people in a very pleasant and non-threatening way. And if you do that you can always maintain some type of relationship.”
That doesn’t mean Kelso leaves ail of the bridges standing. Don’t look for a name like ’’Kelso Crisis Management” in the Yellow Pages; he still operates through Legal Econometrics. “No. my name is not on the door. I don’t want my name on the door.” he says.