Sekulich Is Driving Force
Monica Sekulich holds down a vital dual role as vice president and general counsel at DP Fox Ventures LLC. Owned by Dan and Pamella DeVos, the company is engaged in a trio of seemingly unrelated areas: commercial and residential real estate, sports and entertainment, and transportation. But a real relationship exists between the three, and Sekulich understands it. In return, DP Fox has put Sekulich, at only 34 years of age, in charge of relocating four of the firm's automobile lines to a pair of new dealership sites.
Sekulich started with DP Fox as an assistant general counsel in March 1996 or roughly six months before the Grand Rapids Griffins, a professional hockey team largely owned by the company, began playing at Van Andel Arena. Back then the firm had also just bought the Kansas City Blades, another pro hockey franchise, when CEO Dan DeVos, Executive Vice President David Green and COO Scott Gorsline all agreed to bring Sekulich aboard.
"I was actually hired to assist Scott with legal work because he was starting to focus on the sports business. So Scott was spending a lot of time on the two new hockey teams and I was hired to assist him with the legal work," said Sekulich, a Grand Rapids native.
Today, Sekulich is responsible for the daily legal work of all the DP Fox affiliates, and there are quite a few of those, as the firm remains very active in its three targeted industries. She is also a key member of the company's strategic-planning team.
"There are a lot of different areas and a lot of different laws," she said humbly while laughing.
"I'm involved in all of our business and real estate acquisitions, and not just as an attorney. I also have a real estate broker's license."
Helping the Fox Motor Group purchase the Zoom Motor Group was her most recent major transaction. Now she is in the midst of trying to gain zoning approval to move the Porsche, Audi and Subaru lines from East Imports to the Zoom site, on 28th Street across from Centennial Park in Cascade Township.
DP Fox acquired the Go Group in April and then renamed the business East Imports, which consisted of the Porsche, Audi, Subaru and Nissan lines. The Nissans will stay put at East and Sekulich said she hopes to have the other three at the former Zoom location soon. By the way, it's a multi-million dollar move.
"I hesitate to continue to refer to it as the Zoom site, as we will be renaming it," she said. "The previous business there was called the Zoom Auto Group. People tend to know what we're talking about when we say the Zoom site, but we will be renaming it."
Sekulich is in her zone when it comes to real estate deals. Without question, property transactions are what she likes most about her position at DP Fox.
"I enjoy the real estate part of my job the best: acquisitions, sales and leasing from both the residential and commercial perspective. I think it's challenging, especially in this economy and in this market, to be involved in that line of business. I enjoy it," she said.
"I also enjoy trying to assess different ways to grow our businesses and make them successful in this area."
Just two of the DP Fox properties that Sekulich stays involved with are the Frey and Bank One buildings, a pair of Class A downtown office structures on Ottawa Avenue. And as a city parking commissioner for the past three years, she recently voiced some concerns about the city possibly reviving a parking incentive policy aimed at drawing new businesses to downtown.
The program offers some free parking to a company that leaves the suburbs for the central business district; the amount depends on the length of the lease a firm signs. Sekulich is worried that the city policy may unintentionally undermine the leasing efforts of building owners, especially those that include parking as part of a lease. The incentive was created eight years ago, but the city quit offering it four years ago.
"I think the plan needs to be reassessed and reviewed given the fact that it is 2003 and we're in a different economy and a different market than we were in 1995 when the policy was adopted. I think the goals and objectives of the plan need to be reviewed to make sure that everyone still believes it's still a worthwhile program to pursue," said Sekulich.
"It's a question of being careful whenever the government provides a subsidy to one business that maybe isn't available to another business," she added.
"I recognize and certainly understand that there are valid reasons for providing subsidies or incentive tools to encourage development or other forms of business activity, but I think that clear goals need to be established at the outset, and we need to make sure that those goals are achieved in connection with adopting any kind of subsidy plan."
Monica is married to Michael and they have an 18-month-old son named Matthew. She said most of her free time is spent taking care of her son. Michael is the executive director of the Grand Rapids Griffins Youth Hockey Foundation, the charitable arm of the city's AHL franchise that introduces inner-city kids to the fine art of skating and extracurricular social relationships.
"He loves that job," she said. "He really enjoys it."
Sekulich earned her law degree from Wayne State University and did her undergraduate work at the University of Michigan. She said Wolverine football is a passion for her and Michael. Her family holds season tickets to the Ann Arbor games. But since Matthew came along, they haven't had many opportunities to cheer on the Maize and Blue in person.
"With having an 18-month-old it's not as easy as it used to be to go to the games. So we tend to watch a lot of the games on TV and that's OK," she said.
As for her immediate future, Sekulich said most of her attention would go toward getting the Fox Motor Group dealerships into their new homes. And not just driving the Porsche, Audi and Subaru lines to the Zoom site, but also steering the Mitsubishi dealership into a new location in Kentwood that is just a bit east of Fox Saab. Sekulich figured she would be behind the wheel of those projects for at least the next six to nine months.
"There is a lot of work involved in moving these dealerships, designing new buildings, constructing new buildings, working with the manufacturers, working with the township, coordinating the operational part of any kind of relocation," she said. "It's actually quite a bit of detail and a lot of coordination."