Senior Vice President, Corporate Counsel and Executive Secretary
Express Scripts has seen off-the-charts growth since Marty Akins joined the company in 2001. He’s overseen numerous acquisitions, but if the latest one is successful, he’s going to put himself out of a job.
Express Scripts, the prescription-benefits company based in St. Louis, is being acquired by Cigna in a $67 billion deal. Akins, as its senior vice president, corporate counsel and executive secretary, has served as the company’s lead internal counsel for the transaction. He’s been involved in all aspects of the acquisition, including negotiating, gaining shareholder approval and preparing for the Department of Justice antitrust review.
But once the deal is done, he will exit the company while his corresponding colleague from Cigna remains in place. The deal is expected to close by the end of the year, and the prospect of leaving is one that is bittersweet, Akins said.
“We’ve grown in the time I’ve been here from being barely in the Fortune 500 to the Fortune 25,” Akins said. “We’re a hundred-billion-dollar company. From my perspective, we’ve changed the face of health care. We’ve taken on a lot of battles to save our clients’ money . . . It’s been a fantastic run in 18 years, and it’s been amazing to be a part of it.”
Akins first came to St. Louis on summer internships while he was attending law school at the University of Illinois. After graduation, the Springfield, Illinois, native found a home in the city, working in corporate law and mergers and acquisitions for Thompson Coburn and Polsinelli, where he was a shareholder.
He made the move to Express Scripts in 2001 after spending several years considering an in-house position and interviewing with numerous companies to find the right fit. He said he was interested in an in-house position due to the ability to work both as a lawyer and as a business person. Also, he’d hoped to continue working in mergers and acquisitions, and he was looking for a company that was growing.
Moving from a law firm to a corporation was a switch he wanted, but it was one that came with challenges. Attorneys at law firms are the focus of the businesses for which they work, and the intent is for them to make money. In-house attorneys are a cost center for their companies, Akins said.
“You’re going from an area where the focus of a law firm is how individual lawyers [can] be successful in helping the firm grow,” Akins said. “Going in-house is playing a service role for the organization. The focus is not on you anymore.”
Attorneys considering the move to an in-house position should need to understand the breadth of the business they’re interested in, Akins said.
“You can’t just come in and say ‘I’m a lawyer. I understand the law,’” Akins said. “You have to understand the business. You can’t make decisions in a vacuum. Here, we make a final decision, and then we’ve got to live with it. You’ve really got to understand how decisions impact the business from stem to stern.”
Akins is unsure what his next professional step will be after the acquisition with Cigna. He plans to take time to assess his next move and spend time with his wife Nancy, and children Francie, M.J., Patrick and Jenna.
No matter what happens, he said he is grateful for his time at Express Scripts, where he credits his team members for his success.
“It’s been amazing to have fantastic people to work with as part of my team,” he said. “To me, that’s the crowning jewel of my career and what’s really made me successful and content in what I’ve done.”
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