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2020 In-House Counsel Awards: Sven Fickeler

Private company with more than $500 million in annual revenue

Senior Corporate Counsel, Bunzl Distribution USA

Sven FickelerWhen he first came to the United States in 2002 to intern for Armstrong Teasdale in St. Louis, Sven Fickeler planned to stay for only four months before returning to his native Germany.

But after meeting his future wife during his stay, Fickeler decided to officially immigrate a year later.

Today, Fickeler is senior corporate counsel at Bunzl Distribution’s North American headquarters in St. Louis. His practice focuses on a wide range of business matters, including commercial contracts, dispute resolution, compliance and corporate governance.

The company supplies a variety of products, including outsourced food packaging, disposable supplies, and cleaning and safety supplies to food processors, supermarkets, non-food retailers and convenience stores.

Fickeler was born in the northern Bavarian city of Wurzburg and grew up in the greater Frankfort area. He initially was interested in becoming a commercial pilot, but a hiring freeze in Germany led him to look into other options.

“I thought law school was great because I didn’t have to decide at the time what I was going to do with it,” he said.

Fickeler obtained his law degree from the University of Bonn in 2000 and then took part in a two-year post-graduate legal clerk program, as required in the German legal system. After immigrating to the U.S., he needed to obtain additional legal education in order to sit for the bar. He earned an LL.M. degree from Saint Louis University in 2004.

After becoming licensed in Missouri, he worked for a year as an associate for Reinert & Rourke in St. Louis, focusing on civil litigation. In 2006, he moved to an in-house position as senior corporate counsel and assistant secretary for Furniture Brands International, then the second-largest publicly traded retailer and distributor of residential furniture in the U.S.

He worked for the company for slightly more than seven years before moving to SunEdison Inc., a renewable-energy company, as associate general counsel. He joined Bunzl in 2015.

Fickeler said he’d always been interested in working in-house for a company.

“I always liked the direct combination between law and business. That was always what I was most interested in,” he said.

He most enjoys being part of a team and being involved with the company’s matters from beginning to end, he said.

“What I really appreciate is, you get to see what they’re doing with it and what they’re struggling with on a daily basis and what drives the business,” he said. “If there’s a major accomplishment, you’re a part of it. It’s really rewarding.”

Fickeler is the incoming president of the St. Louis chapter of the Association for Corporate Counsel. His term as president will start in 2021.

He also is vice president of St. Louis-Stuttgart Sister Cities, a not-for-profit organization engaged in intercultural and business exchange between the U.S. and Germany. The organization is the oldest sister city organization in the country, and it reflects St. Louis’ German heritage, he said.

Fickeler said he’s involved in the organization to keep in touch with his own German roots. He’s also interested in passing on his culture to the next generation, including his own two children.