Michael Madigan’s name stripped from property tax firm he co-founded


The property tax appeal law firm co-founded by now indicted former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan quietly has rebranded itself, stripping his name from its legal masthead as he awaits trial on bribery and racketeering charges.

The clout-laden Madigan & Getzendanner firm is no more, after nearly 50 years as the place Chicago’s mighty and powerful went to have their property tax bills slashed.

Its website is dead, and paperwork filed with Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias’ office in June legally renamed the firm Holland Hicks Law. It’s headed by two long-time Madigan & Getzendanner partners, Jeffrey Holland and Harold Hicks.

Vincent “Bud” Getzendanner, who co-founded Madigan & Getzendanner with the ex-speaker in 1972 and is not facing charges, notified the firm’s more than 500 clients of the changeover in a mid-July letter.

“I believe this transition is an important and necessary step that will ensure our clients continue to receive the highest quality of representation,” Getzendanner wrote.

Getzendanner’s letter didn’t mention Madigan or the fact the ex-speaker faces a 23-count bribery and racketeering indictment and is due to stand trial at the Dirksen Federal Building in April.

Those charges are focused on Madigan’s time running Springfield and on his alleged efforts to illegally drum up work for Madigan & Getzendanner.

For decades, the law firm profited from the political star power Madigan had as speaker to attract commercial developers big and small to his property tax appeal business as Chicago’s downtown skyline filled with tower cranes and continued to expand upward.

The sign outside the offices of Madigan & Getzendanner in 2019. The former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan is scheduled to go on trial in April.

A 2017 analysis by Reuters showed Madigan & Getzendanner won $63.3 million in property tax refunds for clients with property in Cook County between 2004 and 2015 — money that local governments ordinarily could have used to put more teachers in classrooms, fill potholes and add city cops to the streets.

In 2015, Madigan’s practice ranked second among law firms in total property tax refunds, according to Reuters’ analysis of data from Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas’s office.

Later in 2017, a Chicago Tribune report ranked Madigan & Getzendanner as the No. 1 law firm of its kind in the city in terms of the overall value of property tax assessments it was attempting to reduce. 

The Tribune analysis found that between 2011 and 2016, the firm secured reductions of 20% from the initial values of its clients’ properties, totaling nearly $1.7 billion.

Madigan stepped away from Madigan & Getzendanner in March 2022, but the state Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission lists Madigan as still eligible to practice law in Illinois.

Madigan’s departure from the firm coincided with his initial indictment, which focused partly on instances in which Madigan allegedly sought help from then-Ald. Danny Solis in gaining property tax appeal work for Madigan & Getzendanner. In exchange, the indictment alleged, Madigan offered to help Solis win a high-paying appointment to a state board —–- an appointment that never materialized.

Madigan & Getzendanner was identified 20 times in the indictment but was never charged with criminal wrongdoing.

Federal prosecutors later charged Madigan in a superseding indictment for allegedly muscling AT&T Illinois to give a no-work, $22,500 consulting contract to former state Rep. Edward Acevedo, a Madigan ally, in a bid to help pass company legislation. AT&T Illinois agreed to pay a $23 million fine and enter into a deferred prosecution agreement with the Justice Department to set aside a criminal charge of using an interstate facility to promote legislative misconduct.

Former Speaker of the House Michael Madigan sits in a car.

Former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan parks in the garage at his Southwest Side home in March 2022, the day he was first indicted on federal charges.

Holland, a partner in the newly named Holland Hicks Law firm, told WBEZ the “branding change” had been “in the works for some time.”

He said he and his partner, Harold Hicks, were both Madigan & Getzendanner lawyers for more than 20 years apiece and “are grateful for our clients’ trust.”

Timothy Calkins, a professor of marketing at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, compared the decision to retire the Madigan & Getzendanner brand with another branding crisis three decades ago that captured national headlines. 

In 1996, 110 people died when a ValuJet Airlines DC-9 crashed in the Florida Everglades after a fire broke out on the plane midflight. The following year, the company rebranded itself AirTran in a move aimed at papering over ValuJet’s fatal track record.

With more negative attention awaiting Madigan in his upcoming trial, his old law firm faced a similar identity crisis, Calkins said.

“If you’re a law firm, the last thing you want is to have your brand associated with someone who’s getting lots of press and coverage for all sorts of legal troubles,” said Calkins, who studies and teaches marketing strategy and branding. “That’s not going to do good things for your practice. It’s not going to be great for attracting employees or for attracting clients.

“Right now, the brand, Madigan, is a pretty tarnished brand in the state of Illinois so anything you can do to move away from that is, from a branding perspective, a pretty smart idea,” he said.

Dave McKinney covers Illinois politics and government for WBEZ and was the Chicago Sun-Times’ long-time Springfield bureau chief.

Products You May Like

Articles You May Like

This old house ­– what a long month of repairs, maintenance
Social media posts Trump claimed were made by judge’s wife were not made by her, court says
Judge rejects Trump’s motion to dismiss 2020 federal election interference case
Congresswoman released ad telling supporters to vote on the wrong day
Romanian guru suspected of running international sex sect handed preliminary charges with 14 others

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *