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October 7, 2013 Coleman B. Levy

Levy serves as deal maker, philanthropist

Photo | Pablo Robles
Photo | Contributed

A conversation with Coleman B. Levy tends not to be about him but in some respects praise for others who have helped him along the way, and a deep seated desire to give back to the community.

Levy, 74, is a partner at Hinckley Allen's law offices on the 18th floor of the Stilts Building in downtown Hartford. His office window overlooks Christ Church Cathedral and affords a scenic view south of the city. It's an impressive office but Levy is not a man to tout his successes, although he has many of them. Instead, he seeks to make an impression on others; to impart his skills and knowledge.

“You can't get too impressed with your own headlines,” Levy said.

The long-time attorney, who started practicing law when he passed the bar in 1966, has been in the middle of some of Greater Hartford's major real estate deals.

He represented, for example, investors who purchased Hartford's Gold Building and The Metro. He was also involved in the acquisition of Northeast Utilities' Hartford headquarters, and served as counsel for numerous projects in West Hartford's Bishops Corner, including the opening of its first fast-food restaurant chain.

His longtime legal partner, John Droney, who was the other named partner in Levy & Droney before the Farmington-based law firm folded into Hinckley Allen earlier this year, said Levy is one of the best commercial negotiators he's ever met.

“He's tough, aggressive and reasonable,” Droney said. “He's been successful for more than 45 years in a very tough end of the legal business and he's still going strong without having people hate you. It is quite an accomplishment.”

Levy said his philosophy always has been to be a problem solver; to get two parties with different agendas to come to a common agreement.

“One of the easiest things to do in the practice of law is say no,” he said. “It doesn't take a lot of thought and effort. Thought and effort is to get two people to see there is enough 'yes' in a problem for resolution. You can be pissed at somebody but if that's your objective, you're not going to accomplish anything. You want to take emotion out of the situation.”

Levy, however, lawyers up a bit when discussing his own successes.

“I've been involved in a lot of matters that have ended up with a very positive result,” he says. “It's been for small businesses, medium businesses and large public companies. Given many of the things I do, it's not like being a criminal lawyer. There isn't a lot of publicity.”

His clients speak highly of him. Stephen Schwartz, CEO of Colchester-based S&S Worldwide, an industry leader in the recreation, sporting goods, healthcare and education markets, has known Levy for over 25 years.

“I would say that the one characteristic that sets him apart and above most others is his courage,” Schwartz said. “He is a fearless individual, one who you would certainly want on your side at all times. He has been a loyal advocate for me and S&S Worldwide for a quarter of a century.”

Although modest about his accomplishments, Levy said he takes pride in the growth and success of his old firm Levy & Droney, which, through various name changes, had been around since 1974.

When the firm dissolved earlier this year, much of Levy's staff followed him and Droney to Hinckley Allen.

Levy is a fit man who moves with a confident grace about him. He's a runner, golfer and tennis player. He's also an avid reader, with a particular interest in presidential biographies. He's even met a few former presidents including Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.

“I might have met Ford, but I can't remember,” Levy says with a smile.

In October, Levy will become chairman of the University of Connecticut Foundation's board of directors. He earned his bachelor's, master's and law degrees at UConn. He said he likes giving back to his alma mater.

UConn President Susan Herbst said Levy's generous financial support and passion for the school's mission made him an obvious choice for the chairmanship role.

“Coleman is highly effective in generating support for the forward-looking initiatives that will help ensure UConn's continued success into the future,” Herbst said.

Levy has also enjoyed success outside the legal and community service arenas. For 11 seasons, he owned the New Britain Rock Cats with Bill Dowling and others. First season was 2000 and the last was 2011.

During Levy's 11 year ownership tenure, Rock Cats attendance doubled to 385,000.

But he doesn't take all the credit for himself. Coleman Levy's son, Evan Levy, was the team's vice president of sales and marketing.

“It was a lot of fun,” Levy said. “We created a real community activity… All of the people who came to the park were part of the partnership. It was enjoyable, people thanked you, and it was profitable.”

Levy is also a major supporter of the Perry S. Levy Endowed Fund at Dana Farber, which was started after his son died of small bowel cancer in 1999 at the age of 32. It funds annually two fellows in gastrointestinal research. Through the PanMassachusetts Challenge and other events, more than $4 million has been raised in his memory.

Levy said seven first-year investigators have been supported through the money raised. “Ninety percent of the people who raise money never knew Perry but they have such an attachment to the cause,” Levy said.

Levy said his Jewish faith also plays a role in his community involvement, adding it goes with the tenets of his religion to make the world a better place and help those in need.

At 74, Levy said he has no intentions of slowing down. He said he enjoys practicing the law; it's a passion for him.

Levy also credits his wife Judie and the rest of his family for a lot of his success.

“She's been a tremendous supporter and booster and confidant and a great mother,” he said. “She raised four boys and had to do everything. I have no regrets. I think I've done what I wanted to do. I've been fortunate to have some great partners, family and a lot of good friends.”

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