After helping a local, San Diego firm attain national prominence, attorney Roy Bell is now taking his talents to an international stage.
The Ross, Dixon & Bell partner has significantly curtailed his trial practice to become, as he describes it, "a special assistant" to the CEO of a major international carbon and mineral company.
"It is a sea change for me," said Bell, who has been practicing law for more than 30 years. "It's exciting, and it's exhausting.
"The travel's demanding, and I don't like being away from family, but it's very rewarding. I feel kind of a rebirth in my practice because I no longer worry about keeping my time (or) worry about what I'm doing."
He travels approximately 10-15 days out of a month, mostly handling litigation and acquisition assignments for the Oxbow Group, a fossil fuels company that owns 81 subsidiaries throughout the world.
Bell considers himself more of a client than a lawyer now, problem-solving and consulting with other attorneys. Bell currently is dealing with issues in Buenos Aires, Amsterdam and Houston simultaneously.
"They jokingly call me the fix-it guy," he said of his bosses at Oxbow.
This past year, Bell's first as Oxbow's Mr. Fix-it, was highly successful.
He was the lead negotiator in the company's two largest acquisitions of 2007. He also helped settle a complicated $400 million lawsuit by an Oxbow subsidiary against the city of Los Angeles and the Port of Los Angeles with an agreement that was "favorable for both sides," he said.
Additionally, Bell resolved an $86 million lawsuit for Oxbow in Texas that involved accounting irregularities in the acquisition of a public company.
"I don't think you'll find a greater combination of business acumen with trial advocacy skills," said Mike Whitton, a fellow partner at Ross, Dixon & Bell. "Also, he's an individual who's got deep and wide loyalties. When he says something, he'll follow through and do it.
"Roy's really the heart and soul of Ross, Dixon & Bell. He's caused a local firm to become a national firm with a national platform and a national clientele."
Bell's also been instrumental in making the Buick Invitational golf tournament at Torrey Pines one of San Diego's signature sporting events each January.
"Being an attorney, he is the consummate deal-maker," said Tom Wilson, executive director for the Buick Invitational and the Century Club of San Diego, which runs the Buick Invitational. "He's really good about putting together a deal that works good for not only the Century Club but whoever we're trying to put a contract together with."
Bell played a key part in getting SBC, now AT&T (NYSE: T), as a sponsor of the Buick's pro-am event with a substantial six-figure deal. He also helped the Century Club negotiate its latest four-year agreement with Buick that will go until 2010.
"He's the top salesmen for the Buick as far as corporate sponsorship goes," said Robert Horseman, president of San Diego National Bank and a Century Club member. "He's head and shoulders above anyone else. He's very efficient in promoting and selling those events."
Bell's been innovative, too. He took the "Save Our Schools" model, in which school children are given discounted Buick Invitational tickets to sell as a fund-raiser, and made it available to nonprofit charities. Through such programs, the Century Club has donated more than $13 million back into the community over the years, Wilson said.
"(Bell is) the best when it comes to having someone in there that's working for you," Horseman said. "He's an outstanding leader. He has great communication skills and is a great motivator."
Whitton said Bell, who is very involved in community service, sets the tone of how the firm's partners treat one another.
"He always says God is first, family is second and a close third is the firm, and he expects us to treat each other with respect and as teammates.
"He's a larger-than-life guy. He fills a room with his personality and presence."