As far as deals go, in the adventure travel business it was big, and it happened at one of the trickiest times of year — between December 2016 and January 2017, Melissa Reiter played an instrumental role in G Adventures’ acquisition of five U.K.-based brands in two complex transactions — Just You, Page & Moy, Travelsphere, Swan Hellenic and Voyages of Discovery.
The acquisitions increased G Adventures’ total annual global revenue to $600 million and the workforce to more than 2,500 employees. As director of legal and privacy officer for the company, Reiter led the integration of the acquired companies into the business, including a full review of existing contracts, compliance and regulatory practices.
“It was a very busy and exciting time for our deal team,” says Reiter. “We were a lean team of about four working in a boardroom over a tight time span to do the acquisition. Because of the circumstances of the acquisition of those brands we were working with a [bankruptcy] administrator. As a distressed acquisition, we had a lot of competitors in the space who were also vying to acquire those brands and that IP and so it was an exciting and busy process working with internal team and external counsel.”
G Adventures is a Canadian global tour operator founded in 1990 that offers trips to adventure travel seekers interested in getting off the beaten track. The company has offices in 28 different countries and operate tours in more than 100 different countries.
Reiter is responsible for legal affairs for all of the G Adventure businesses as well as responding to the day-to-day legal challenges faced by G Adventures’ operations around the world.
It was a big leap moving from private practice to in-house in 2015, but Reiter says she has loved every minute of it. She was called to the bar in June 2010.
Since she arrived at G Adventures, Reiter has led the conversion of the global business from a paper-based, manual contracting model to a more efficient automated and digital contracting processes. As a result, the original contracting process of two to three weeks was reduced to one to two business days for many contracts entered into by the business, saving G Adventures thousands of dollars in time required for all stakeholders to review and process a contract. It also eliminated the use of paper and reduced the company’s environmental footprint.
Reiter implemented DocuSign, an automated contracting process, for sales and buying. This allowed G Adventures to automatically set parameters for contracting approvals so that basic contracts within approved guidelines can be approved automatically rather than manually reviewed. The DocuSign process frees up significant time for legal and sales teams, as well as having a direct cost benefit for the business.
“By introducing DocuSign to different departments at G Adventures, we’ve improved the efficiency of our processes across the corporation, so things that might have taken several weeks because we have people in the business located all over the world or travelling all over the world we can now do in an extremely mobile and agile way that lets us adapt to the needs of a global business,” she says.
She also conducted a trademark audit of existing marks within the business and flagged new trademarks to register to better protect the company’s IP.
G Adventures continues to expand into new markets and in recent years developed operations in Africa, India and Germany as a result of an increased number of travellers and presence of the business in those regions. Reiter was responsible for all legal and regulatory aspects of the expansion.
Reiter has also created a privacy compliance training program for the global sales team and developed templates for sales and supplier standard contracts. Members of the global team are now empowered to proactively consult with the legal department before and when issues arise.
Under her leadership, the legal team has doubled in size and the department’s involvement and profile within the business has grown significantly.
As part of the company’s Innovation Committee, Reiter develops special projects and initiatives that aim to make a significant impact on the business and “pressure tests” those ideas before presenting them to the executive committee for approval and execution.
Reiter has also been a Pro Bono Students Canada lawyer project mentor.