LIFE AFTER managing partner was in the forefront of Gary Flowers’ mind when he decided to take on a new role as managing director and chief executive at the Australian Rugby Union (ARU).
Sparke Helmore will farewell the man who has led the firm for 11 years at the end of June, and see him slip into a field he has been passionate about for 30 years.
Having played rugby and cricket at school, been a water boy, as well as quite a list of involvement in sport of various kinds, Flowers told Lawyers Weekly he had enjoyed every aspect of the sports arena throughout his life.
He acknowledged these kinds of opportunities don’t come up every day, so he took this one while it was there.
Chairman Bob Tuckey said Flowers’ “record of leadership, strategic thought and commercial skill that the ARU needs to develop rugby into Australia’s number-one football code”, were appealing.
Flowers said there were connections between the two roles. There were a number of stakeholders in both organisations, and “being able to … make everyone feel part of it” was important in both positions. “Creating a positive culture is important, whether in law or in an organisation like the ARU.”
The firm’s partnership chairman Paul Anicich also acknowledged similarities between the two appointments. “[Flowers] is an experienced manager in a team environment. He now moves from one coaching role to another,” he said.
Since his appointment as managing partner in the mid-90s, Flowers has seen Sparke Helmore transform from about 100 people in Sydney and Newcastle into a national legal network with over 650 people.
Revenue has quadrupled during Flowers’ tenure and he has nurtured a team that has been instrumental in doubling the firm’s size in the last three years.
His new role is expected to see similar success. Tuckey said the ARU’s ability to grow the game “will be determined by our ability to manage major commercial issues such as broadcast rights, sponsorship and marketing, while developing and promoting participation and support at all levels of the game”.
Leaving the law after 20 or so years, Flowers said “it’s been a long career involved with the law. Being involved in management in a law firm equips people in a range of areas. I think this was recognised [when I was offered the job]”.