Stan Renecker Forges His Own Trail
“I always wanted to go to law school, but not necessarily to become a traditional lawyer,” said Stanley G. Renecker JD’81. “I just wanted to be successful, and I thought law school would help get me there.”
Renecker himself is a perfect example of lawyers making great leaders. As managing director of acquisitions for The Campbell Group, he helps run one of the largest timberland investment management firms in the world. The company markets timber as an asset class for investment and buys timberland on behalf of investors.
“The company manages timber investments for various institutional clients, including multibillion dollar pension funds, university endowments and foundations,” explained Renecker. “Many of our clients are large public-employee pension funds and well-established university endowments. When one of these entities decides to allocate money to timber, our organization manages the investment and the timberland.”
For Renecker, the jump from studying law to managing timberland investments was actually a short one. Raised on a mink farm in the Yakima Valley in Washington, Renecker learned early in life that natural resources can be valuable commodities. “Farm life gives you a certain reality that other people never have,” he said. “A rural, agricultural life is hard in many respects. You have to get up every day and work to ensure your livelihood.”
Following high school, Renecker attended Central Washington University, where he studied political science and philosophy. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1978 and subsequently enrolled in Willamette University College of Law. “For me, law school put a modern-day spin on the philosophy and political science I studied in college,” he explained. “There’s a certain academic rigor that goes into studying law. Law school explained the ‘whys’ of society to me — why our rules are what they are and why our system works as it does.”
Toward the end of his second year of law school, Renecker became interested in business and tax law. His sister-in-law, an attorney and certified public accountant (CPA), suggested he consider a career in tax work or accounting. He took her advice to heart. At the end of the semester, Renecker accepted a summer position with Price Waterhouse LLP, one of the largest professional accounting firms in the world. He interned in the company’s Portland office full time during the summer and for several days a week throughout his final year of law school.
“The College of Law gave me lots of liberty to do what I thought was best for my future,” he said, acknowledging that more of his third year was spent at Price Waterhouse than in the law school. “The school put a real emphasis on me getting the education I went there to get and provided plenty of resources to help me succeed, but they also held me accountable for my decisions. I think that if I had gone to a larger school, I wouldn’t have had the flexibility and opportunities I had at Willamette.”
After graduating from the College of Law and passing the Oregon State Bar exam, Renecker was offered a permanent position in Price Waterhouse’s Portland office. Soon afterward, he passed the CPA exam and became a licensed CPA, having earned almost all the accounting practice hours needed for licensure while working at Price Waterhouse during law school.
As a practicing CPA and consultant with Price Waterhouse, Renecker provided business and tax planning services for corporate, nonprofit and individual clients in a range of industry areas, including wholesale and retail distribution, forest products, manufacturing, high technology, and the service industries. For Renecker, working at Price Waterhouse provided the same educational benefits as attending business school, so he made a personal commitment to work for the company at least four years. He stayed nine. “The job just kept getting better and better,” he said. “I was a moderate fast-tracker at the company, so my responsibilities continued to grow.”
In 1989, Renecker was up for partner in Price Waterhouse — if he would move to the East Coast. Faced with the choice of “up or out,” he chose out. “My wife and I had put a lot on hold for many years,” he explained. “We were ready to put down roots and wanted to do that in the Northwest.”
During the time he was deciding whether to move to the East Coast with Price Waterhouse or leave the company, Renecker was offered an executive position with The Campbell Group. Throughout his 17-year tenure with the company, Renecker has served in a number of top positions, including president. As managing director of acquisitions, he directs all aspects of the firm’s outreach and timberland acquisition activities, including negotiating with buyers and sellers, supervising due diligence, and coordinating and overseeing transactions. He also serves on the firm’s board of directors and executive committee.
Traditionally, the majority of forestland in America has been owned by forest-product companies, such as pulp and paper saw mills, private families and large railroad companies. “The government gave a lot of the forestland to the railroads as part of the western expansion,” Renecker explained. “Approximately 20 years ago, the railroads and traditional forest-product companies started to divest their timberlands. Today, much of the timberland in the United States is owned by investors and managed by timber management companies like The Campbell Group.”
Renecker believes timberland is a strong investment because timber provides a solid return and is negatively correlated to the stock market. “When stocks go down, timber goes up,” he said. “It is also an inflation hedge over the long term and a great asset for capital preservation.” As evidence of the investment strength of timberland, he noted that The Campbell Group’s timberland operations have generated more than $200 million in annual log sales and produced significant returns for investors since the company was founded in 1981.
According to Renecker, the company works hard to balance the investment goals of clients with effective forest management. “Timber is a sustainable, renewable resource. When you cut a tree, you plant a new one.” The Campbell Group maintains strong relationships with the federal and state agencies that regulate timberland and forest management operations. The firm also employs professional forest managers to oversee their timberland. As a result of this dedication to conservation and preservation, The Campbell Group has been publicly recognized numerous times for its forest management practices and stewardship.
Although Renecker has never practiced law, he remains an active member of the Oregon State Bar. He is proud of his legal education and credits Willamette with giving him the strong foundation needed for a successful career. “I’ve never had any regrets about my decision to attend law school or how I chose to use my law degree,” he said. “Among the members of my first-year law class, I don’t think many of us really knew what we wanted to do. A lot of us were there because we were trying to meet people’s expectations of us. Eventually you learn what you’re suited for. I’ve been fortunate to be able to pursue a different kind of work, one that I find challenging and rewarding. For me, it works.”
Stanley G. Renecker JD’81
“The College of Law gave me lots of liberty to do what I thought was best for my future. The school provided plenty of resources to help me succeed.”