21 February 2000
FORBES — When lawyer-cum-turnaround guy Steven Fink moved his family into a French Norman-style house on an Encino, Calif. cul-de-sac in 1984, he had no idea who lived next door. Turned out it was Michael Milken, whose notoriety would soon attract the media pack onto Fink’s lawn.
But no reporter in all these years has ever fingered Fink, now 49, for what he’s become to his neighbor. Since 1987 he’s been one of Milken’s most trusted confidants and partners in what remains a busy deal network. Milken has had his problems with finks, but this Fink is a guy he’s relied on to fix business trouble. That’s happening again with Nextera Enterprises, one of the few publicly traded arms of Milken’s active-investment empire.
Fink is now chairman and chief executive officer of Nextera — 65% controlled by Milken’s Knowledge Universe, where he was already vice chairman. The new gig is forcing Fink reluctantly to take a higher profile, even hiring notorious Los Angeles p.r. man Michael Sitrick to help spin his story. Nextera, a $156 million (estimated fiscal 1999 revenues) collection of consulting firms spun off last May, hasn’t exactly been blessed with Milken-like alchemy. After going public at $10 a share, the stock sank to $3.50 before climbing back to a recent $12. Stock prices of similar outfits, such as Proxicom, Razorfish, Sapient and Scient, all have soared in the same period.
Fink’s job is to refocus the company and convince Wall Street Nextera is an Internet play. In many respects, it’s little different from what he’s done before. His first fix-it job came before he met Milken, for a foundering legal client that made grocery freezer doors, Anthony Manufacturing. Fink repositioned the company as a maker of “energy management equipment,” and convinced grocers using open freezers that they could save electric costs with his glass doors. […]