Lewis Lee-Led IP Venture Grows Here, Internationally Intellectual Property Business Grows Post-Acquisition

By Natasha Nellis Journal of Business | The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA), December 8, 2019 | Go to article overview

Lewis Lee-Led IP Venture Grows Here, Internationally Intellectual Property Business Grows Post-Acquisition


Natasha Nellis Journal of Business, The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA)


Nearly 18 months after the quiet acquisition of Spokane-based 601West by global insurance giant Aon PLC, the small intellectual property business consultancy has grown to nearly 120 employees globally and is expected to nearly double its staff within the next 18 months, says Lewis Lee.

Lee is a founder of Spokane-based Lee & Hayes PLLC intellectual property law firm, of which 601West used to be a business unit. He now serves as CEO of Aon Intellectual Property Solutions, the new name for the quickly growing consultancy that Chicago-based Aon acquired in May 2018 as part of its drive into providing insurance plans and valuation solutions for the growing intellectual property market, he said.

Lee and a group of nine Lee & Hayes employees jumped to Aon when the company acquired 601West's assets.

Now, the Aon IP Solutions team occupies about half of a floor in the Bank of America building, at 601 W. Riverside Ave., in downtown Spokane, and is looking to expand onto another floor next year to accommodate growth, said Sam Fleming, Aon IP Solutions chief technical officer.

Lee said about 40 employees are based in the Spokane office, the rest are spread among the group's other three offices in Seattle, Chicago and Boston, as well as a few remote workers in London and Hong Kong.

Fleming added that about six employees work remotely but report to the Spokane office, which is the group's most prominent location.

Lee anticipates Aon IP Solutions will grow to over 200 employees by the end of 2020, with a good portion of those jobs being based in Spokane.

Richard Denenny, president of Lee & Hayes, observed that the jobs are all net new, primary jobs, meaning they're jobs funded with money that comes from outside the area.

"It's external money coming into the community for high-wage technology jobs that then stay in our community," he said. "The key for economic growth and creating a vibrant economy is bringing external money into the community and then having that money circulate in the community. Having those jobs and millions of dollars of salaries come into our community is a really big deal."

Lee & Hayes had a long-standing partnership with Aon, so the shift felt natural, said Denenny.

"In reality, what they were really looking to do is hire the team and bring the team on," Denenny contended. "Aon has made a push into intellectual property and they wanted to form a team to be able to lead that effort. Lewis was identified - and appropriately so - as the right person to lead the team."

Denenny said the acquisition presented unparalleled opportunities for the IP group to grow and reach its goals, so the law firm supported Lee's decision to leave.

"While there's always some nervousness around anyone departing who's in a senior position - let alone the founder of the firm - it was unequivocally positive from my perspective," he said.

Denenny declined to disclose the company's annual revenue but says 2018 was one of Lee & Hayes best business years with the addition of four Fortune 100 companies to its client base and growth in the top line revenue.

"Aon, in particular, was interested in developing products to insure intangible assets like trade secrets against trade secret theft or cyberattacks," Lee said.

Lee declined to disclose the terms of the transaction.

More than 85% of the value of companies in the S&P 500 is in intangible assets, he contends, which accounts for about $60 trillion globally.

"As a result of that innovation-driven economy, the other major thing that we've seen is this historic rotation in asset value from tangible based assets to intangible based assets," Lee said. …

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