David Lax

David Lax, described by Forbes magazine as a "new negotiation theorist" on the cutting edge of his field, is Managing Principal of Lax Sebenius LLC, a firm that assists companies and governments in complex negotiations. Dr. Lax advises on negotiations ranging from commercial contracts, joint ventures, and strategic alliances to large mergers and acquisitions in a wide range of industries. He also leads projects to enhance the ability of a group within a company to improve its ability to get better results in negotiations.

He is the co-author with Professor James Sebenius of 3-D Negotiation, (Harvard Business School Press, 2006), which is used as the textbook for the negotiation course required of all first year Harvard MBA students. Dr. Lax and Professor Sebenius are also the authors of The Manager as Negotiator, (The Free Press, 1987) which is used as a textbook at leading graduate programs in business, law and public policy. He is the author of numerous scholarly and popular articles in publications ranging from the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times to the Journal of American Statistical Association and the Virginia Law Review.

Dr. Lax co-founded, co-developed and co-taught Harvard Business School’s highly-rated week-long executive education course on Strategic Negotiation. Dr. Lax was a professor at the Harvard Business School from 1981 to 1989 and was Director of The Negotiation Roundtable there. Upon leaving the Harvard Business School full-time faculty, he served as an investment banker representing labor unions and as a merchant banker at First City Capital Corporation, where he was involved in transactions such as venture capital, acquisitions, leveraged buyouts, joint ventures, privatizations, and financings. He also served as Vice President in the American Venture Investments subsidiary of ICF Kaiser where he focused on investing in the environmental and energy industries. Educated at Princeton (magna cum laude), Stanford and Harvard, he holds a doctorate in statistics from Harvard.

Dr. Lax has worked in a broad variety of industries. Representative engagements include:

  • Advising Guinness senior management to negotiate with its major shareholder / joint venture partner LVMH, which objected to Guinness’ announced $30 billion industry-consolidating  merger with Grand Metropolitan. The combined market value of Guinness and Grand Metropolitan increased by roughly £3 billion when an agreement with LVMH was announced.
  • Advising an international oil company on negotiations with host governments involving exploration and development, on joint ventures with state oil companies, with local partners in various downstream businesses, and on the divestiture of assets.
  • Advising the Government of Indonesia to develop a strategy for renegotiating billions of dollars of outstanding obligations resulting from power purchase agreements.
  • Assisting Ericsson in developing strategies to sell wireline infrastructure to telecom firms, leading to a substantial increase in margin and market share.
  • Building the capability of senior negotiators of a major international oil company.
  • Assisting a bank and an outsourcing firm to settle contract disputes, improve a troubled relationship and negotiate an innovative $100 MM commercial contract.
  • Assisting a distribution company in negotiating a favorable termination of a long-term contract, saving $11 MM over the client’s best projected outcome.
  • Advising a consumer products company on the sale of a line of business raising sale price from client’s optimistic estimate of $7MM to deal valued at $45MM.
  • Assisting an outsourcing firm in reorganizing to improve its ability to negotiate with its major customers and training its negotiating teams.
  • Assisting an insurer to negotiate major improvements in two large outsourcing arrangements.
  • Helping an integrated healthcare organization resolve a dispute with an HMO.
  • Helping two health care organizations to partially unwind a dysfunctional joint venture.
  • Advising Verizon Wireless on bidding for personal communications service spectrum licenses. Our client had winning bids of roughly $1.1 billion. Also advised a European cellular company to avoid a number of European spectrum auctions.
  • Advising a company in the settlement of a multi-billion dollar shareholder class action lawsuit and derivative state suits.
  • Advising an airline renegotiating aircraft leases, reducing liabilities from $30 MM to $11 MM.
  • Advising a sports league on player salary contract negotiations.
  • Advising an electric utility on matters pertaining to the deregulation of electric utilities and on divestiture its generating assets.

Dr. Lax has also started two investment management companies and sits on the board of a privately held health care company and is chairman of the board of a privately held oil and gas company.

(Photo credit to Randy H. Goodman)