Clarence V. Lee III

Principal and CFO

As executive vice president and chief financial officer, Clarence Lee gets involved in, well, everything. According to Chick, “No proposal or contract goes out without my seeing it.”

That’s probably a good thing. With a BA in Economics under his belt (Yale University, 1978), “Chick” Lee has proved himself from the very start of his career to be a sharp-eyed analyst, keen on numbers and having an uncanny ability to identify problems or irregularities. Early during a stint at the metals trading division of Continental Grain, for example, he discovered several irregularities – enough so that he wound up closing the very division that had hired him. “From there, I moved on to the position of chief financial officer of Conti Milling, an international animal-feed and flour-milling operation.” There, Lee became one of the company’s leading experts in commodities trading. “By then, I’d developed something of a reputation, so they moved me wherever there were problems. Soon that meant an assignment with the foreign-exchange, government securities and merchant bank group – Conti Financial. We found the entire business needed to be reconstructed there, too.”

The next step was a stint at ICD Group, a petrochemicals group operating out of the former Soviet Union. “Once the Berlin Wall came down,” says Lee, “We grew ICD from $500 million in sales to about $50 billion in 18 months. We eventually bought the company and ran it ourselves for a while. It was a great time, but with my kids’ reaching a certain age, I found myself spending six weeks at a time in St. Petersburg or Moscow, then one week at home. It was no way to live.”

It was some time later when Lee ran into ICON founder (and college buddy) Lance Lundberg at a social function.  He suggested Lee meet with (ICON chief executive officer) John Kramer. Lee jokes, “John and I disliked each other immediately, so I took the job.” When he arrived at ICON, it was a very different place from today’s integrated 200-person operation. “There were about 30 of us – we all ate lunch together. We were, and still are, a close-knit family”

Lee continues, “I found out early that this business is a lot of fun. No two deals are exactly the same. That gives us tremendous latitude to be financially creative, which is what I really love. In 2001, we developed the first cash barter product, now known as our VSA product. The ‘win-win’ of this product has been the cornerstone of our growth and success”