Roya Behnia is Executive Vice President, Chief Legal Officer and Corporate Affairs of JELD-WEN, Inc. (NYSE: JELD), a global building products company with over $4.7 billion in revenues and over 24,000 employees. She guides the company and its board in all complex and sensitive strategic matters, including CEO transition, transformational M&A, activism preparedness, ESG strategy, high profile antitrust litigation, business turnaround, effective capital allocation, and related external and internal communications strategy. Before JELD-WEN, Ms. Behnia was the chief legal executive at two different public companies and oversaw their sales in competitive auctions.
Earlier in her career, Ms. Behnia was a partner at Kirkland & Ellis, and a lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School, from where she graduated with honors in 1991. She received her undergraduate degree, magna cum laude, from Harvard University in 1987.
Born in Iran, Ms. Behnia immigrated to the United States as a child, and has a unique global perspective and cultural sensitivity. In 2022, she was recognized as a Diligent Modern Governance 100 ESG, Diversity & Climate Trailblazer and Corporate Board Member, a NYSE/Euronext publication, named Ms. Behnia a “Top General Counsel to Watch.”
Complex and Sensitive Strategic Matters
Ms. Behnia is the key advisor to the board on all sensitive strategic matters and, most recently, during a CEO transition and the subsequent impact on shareholder relations. She was the principal advisor during the CEO change process, including navigating all negotiations, selecting the interim CEO, directing internal and external communications, and planning for shareholder engagement. She guided the board in resolving multiple high profile antitrust lawsuits in the first 18 months of her arrival and oversees a groundbreaking divestiture process, a first in the private US legal system. Ms. Behnia earlier navigated the exit of a large private equity shareholder over the course of a year and implemented governance changes to protect the company throughout.
Ms. Behnia is expert in transformational M&A and plays a key role in JELD-WEN’s stage gate process for capital allocation connected to inorganic opportunities. At Pall Corporation (NYSE: PLL), Ms. Behnia led the negotiations for its sale to Danaher Corporation for $13.8 billion, a record-breaking multiple at the time. She earlier led the sale of Rewards Network, a NASDAQ listed company, to private equity. Ms. Behnia’s extensive international experience includes managing numerous acquisitions, divestitures, green fields and restructuring projects in the EU, UK, Mexico, Canada, and China.
Embedding ESG into Business Strategy
Ms. Behnia started JELD-WEN’S first ESG program, which now is embedded in the company’s business strategy and growth plans. Ms. Behnia oversaw the shift in company business strategy towards sustainability and in establishing the company’s first sustainability targets. The sustainability office, which was created by Ms. Behnia and reports to her, is a global function aligned with sales, marketing, R&D, and operations in all regions. Ms. Behnia also is closely involved with JELD-WEN’s DEI initiatives, including creating the company’s first female executive network and sponsoring the Black employee resource group.