Ira M. Millstein, Corporate Lawyer With Public Impact, Dies at 97

Ira M. Millstein, a venerable lawyer who crusaded for greater independence by corporate boards of directors, invoked his bipartisan bona fides in helping to shepherd Ruth Bader Ginsburg onto the federal bench, and vigilantly helped New York City evade bankruptcy in the mid-1970s, died on Wednesday at his home in Mamaroneck, N.Y. He was 97.

His death was confirmed by his daughter, Elizabeth Millstein Tremain.

Mr. Millstein trained as an engineer at Columbia before switching to law and was respected for his meticulousness and tact. He became the senior partner at Weil, Gotshal & Manges, a New York-based law firm, where he specialized in antitrust law and government regulation. As a member of the firm, he was enlisted to untangle corporate governance imbroglios at Bethlehem Steel, the Walt Disney Company, General Electric, General Motors, Macy’s, Tyco International and Westinghouse, among other companies.

“All of our icons were losing out to foreign competition and being subjected to takeovers,” he told The New York Times in 2006, as he pressed for more oversight of New York’s myriad public authorities as well. “Where were the boards? Inactive.”

Throughout his career, Mr. Millstein pressed for more aggressive corporate governance by directors in the private sector. “The evolution of directors is essential to maintaining our system free of further intrusive regulation,” he said in an interview with Strategy+business magazine in 2005. He further expounded on his views in a book, “The Activist Director: Lessons From the Boardroom and the Future of the Corporation,” published in 2016.

Ira M. Millstein in his Fifth Avenue office in Manhattan in 2005. In his telling, he helped persuade a key Republican senator to confirm Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the federal court of appeals in Washington. Credit…Nancy Siesel/The New York Times

He was also recruited to civic leadership roles that were beyond the ken of politically-hobbled government bureaucracies.

Related Articles

Back to top button