Our Team

The Strategic Rail Finance team includes former congressional staff as well as the recent heads of the USDOT’s Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) Program and the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) Program as well as accomplished leaders in the rail industry, finance, and academia.

Michael Sussman

Michael Sussman President

Michael Sussman

President

Michael Sussman
Michael Sussman is the owner and president of Strategic Rail Finance. Strategic Rail Finance has coordinated financing for rail-related projects in 32 states, expanding capitalization through effective integration of private- and public-sector funding sources. In 2007, Michael founded OnTrackAmerica, a 501c3 transportation policy development organization, dedicated to improving the continent’s freight transportation system through public- and private-sector collaboration and cooperation. Michael’s innovative thinking has earned him the ongoing respect and ear of Congressional and Executive Branch leaders and staff. His thoughtful, non-partisan message resonates with both Republican and Democratic audiences. Michael’s thought-leadership and relationship-building has resulted in many contributions to the history of freight transportation, including:

  • Conducted a rail transportation conference in the U.S. Capitol Building for 55 congressional staff on December 8, 1998, praised by many as the finest briefing they had ever attended in Washington
  • Successfully influenced the inclusion of freight rail projects in H.R.115 – the National Infrastructure Development Act
  • Collaborated with public- and private-sector entities to create the Washington State Produce Railcar Pool Act as passed by the 2003 state legislature
  • Worked with the Federal Railroad Administration to initiate changes to the Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing Act, eliminating audited financial statement requirements for Class II & III railroads
  • Convened a five-hour summit of industry and government leaders in the U.S. Capitol Building on December 11, 2008 to develop new collaborative approaches to freight transportation efficiency
  • Mr. Sussman has authored articles and/or been covered by Traffic World, Railway Age, The Shortline, Progressive Railroading, Rail Business, Association of Transportation Law, Logistics & Policy, Rail Intelligence, and Transportation Quarterly.
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Carl P. Belke

Carl P. Belke Executive Consultant

Carl P. Belke

Executive Consultant

Carl P. Belke
Mr. Belke has 45 years of experience in the railroad industry in the areas of executive management, operations, engineering, finance, marketing, strategic planning, government advocacy and public relations.   He possesses a thorough understanding of the railroad industry from both a domestic and international standpoint through involvement in northeast U.S. ports and intermodal development. His career began in 1973 with the Delaware & Hudson Railway Company where he occupied various engineering, operating and executive positions for an 18-year period as the company transitioned through Guilford Transportation and into Canadian Pacific.  He has also held engineering and operating positions with the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad and domestic and international executive, strategic planning and fleet management positions within the Genesee & Wyoming system of railroads. He is currently President, Chief Operating Officer of the Western New York & Pennsylvania Railroad and EVP & COO of the Livonia, Avon & Lakeville and B&H Corp Railroads.   He additionally serves as Chief Engineer for these three railroads and Chief Bridge Engineer for the Arkansas & Missouri Railroad. Mr. Belke is a former chairman of AREMA Committee 18 – Light Density and Short Line Railroads.  He also is serving a second 3-year term as a Board member of the ASLRRA and his second term as an Executive Board member and Eastern Region Vice President. Belke is Chairman of the ASLRRA Engineering Committee, past chairman of the ASLRRA Technology Committee and is a member of its Mechanical Committee.  He member of the Keystone State Railroad Association of Pennsylvania and a member of the Board of Directors of the Philadelphia Belt Line Railroad. Carl resides with his wife of 46 years, Lysanne, in Milford, NJ.  His seven children live in six different states and Africa. Carl has a BS-CE from Lafayette College in Easton, PA.
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Scott Spencer

Scott Spencer Senior Analyst

Scott Spencer

Senior Analyst

Scott Spencer
Scott Spencer is a Senior Analyst at Strategic Rail Finance. He comes to Strategic Rail Finance with decades of experience in freight and passenger rail business development, marketing and strategic planning. Prior to working at Strategic Rail Finance, Scott was a consultant and advisor on a wide range of projects from business development for ILC Dover’s Flood Protection Technology to acting as Chief Project Advisor on government affairs, financing and operations for the InterContinental Railway. He’s also held the position of Senior Transit Consultant at CHANCE Management Advisors where he developed transit service improvements and solutions for university, medical center, municipal and commercial clients. As Director at Railway Service Corporation, Mr. Spencer developed public/ private partnerships in rail transportation, managing relationships with Amtrak and government agencies including FRA, USDOT and the U.S. House Subcommittee on Railroads. Earlier in his career Mr. Spencer was a Senior Technical Specialist at Parsons Brinckerhoff where he advised on operations planning, development, financing and management for public and private sector transit and railroad projects. Mr. Spencer consulted on many projects during his time with Parsons Brinckerhoff in several U.S. states including New Jersey, Arizona, California, New York and Illinois as well as internationally in Cairo, Egypt and Hsin-Chu, Taiwan. Mr. Spencer also has experience as a Freight Train Performance Analyst for Boston and Maine Corporation where he analyzed daily operations, conducted cost/benefit studies, prepared financial pro formae, developed unit operating cost formulas, and managed the operation of a service planning model through collaboration with Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Mr. Spencer earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration with a major in Transportation Management in 1983 from Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts.
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Douglass William List

Douglass William List Executive Consultant

Douglass William List

Executive Consultant

Douglass William List
Doug List is an Executive Consultant for Strategic Rail Finance. Doug has an extensive background as a planner, strategist, executive, director, and principal with Class I railroads, and major consulting, financial, and logistics companies. Early in his career, after two years at Southern Railway, Doug served as a planning analyst at Union Pacific Railroad during 1979 and 1980 providing key intellectual leadership in assessing the potential benefits of a UP-MP-WP merger. In 1986 and 1987 Doug was Vice President of Marketing and Strategic Planning for CSX Equipment division where he developed strategies and action plans for revamping management of their $2 billion freight car fleet. Doug also represented CSX on the board of Trailer Train (now TTX), an industry railcar co-operative, during a period of significant ownership upheaval. For over seven years, Doug was a consultant with McKinsey & Company and Boston Consulting Group. Doug has served on the board of Harmon Industries for ten years before its sale to GE, particularly as chair of the compensation committee. Doug was also the founding non-executive Chairman of Total Transportation Services, continuing as a strategic advisor. In addition to his many business responsibilities, Doug has taught courses in corporate strategy, marketing, and corporate finance at Johns Hopkins University and Stern School of Business. He offers business people at all levels – corporate CEOs, entrepreneurs, division managers and professional investors – fresh and effective problem-solving perspectives on issues ranging from corporate marketing to organizational development to prioritization of executive efforts.
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Reuben Vabner

Reuben Vabner Public-Financing Consultant

Reuben Vabner

Public-Financing Consultant

Reuben Vabner
Reuben Vabner spent the first 30 years of his career in the equipment leasing/equipment finance industry where he financed all kinds of equipment, from railroad equipment to manufacturing plants, using various techniques all the way up to the most complicated leveraged leases. The last ten years he has been Sr. Director- Corporate Finance at Amtrak and has managed a debt book that started out as $3.2Billion of leases, debt, and bonds when he started in July 2007 but which he whittled down to $1.2 Billion outstanding within 5-6 years. Reuben also arranged a variety of new facilities including: (1) A $360 Million commercial paper program; (2) A $100 Million five year bank revolving credit facility; (3) $365 Million in Equipment Trust Certificates collateralized with passenger rail equipment and rated ‘AA’ by Moody’s. These certificates were placed long-term with insurance companies and were the first instance of passenger rail equipment being used as collateral on Equipment Trust Certificates: (4) Reuben negotiated, documented and closed two out of three of the biggest RRIF Loan ever done; i.e., (i) a $563Million loan commitment in 2011; and, (ii) a $2.45 Billion RRIF loan commitment executed in August 2016; (5) Various secured term loans at favorable rates with various banks as well as refinancing private activity bonds, also at very favorable rates; e.g., one private activity bond was called and refinanced at 2.39%. Reuben was educated at Lehigh University and then received an MBA in Finance from New York University.
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John Elliott

John Elliott Sr. Vice President

John Elliott

Sr. Vice President

John Elliott
John Elliott is a seasoned development executive with broad experience across private and public sectors. In addition to his role as principal and Senior VP of SRF, John also serves as CEO of North Pier Energy; a company developing small-scale LNG plants that convert shale gas to fuel for high-horsepower engines and isolated industrial applications. Before he held that position, from 2008 to 2014, John was the President and CEO of DevelopErie, where he headed Erie County’s lead economic development agencies, including four private non-profits and three public authorities. During his time there, he closed 109 financings totaling over $101 million; raised $6 million in new capital; obtained US Treasury CDFI certification for the Enterprise Development Fund; among numerous other achievements. John has held previous roles at the City of Erie Redevelopment Authority as Executive Director; Urban Engineers, Inc. as Senior Project Manager; and Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr and Huber, Inc., as Civil Engineer/Project Manager. He received his Bachelor of Science degree from Calvin College and his Master of Science in Civil Engineering from Michigan State University. John has been licensed as a professional engineer in both Pennsylvania and Michigan.
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Frank Onimus

Frank Onimus Consultant

Frank Onimus

Consultant

Frank Onimus
Frank Onimus is a consultant for Strategic Rail Finance. He has over 37 years of experience in freight transportation and logistics. He is the founder of Horizon Management and has provided consultation and advising services to transportation companies in the US, Canada, Mexico and Europe since 2004. His expertise includes network and modal optimization analysis, new product and service strategy development, vendor contract negotiations and new terminal development. He has provided consultation to some of the nation’s largest freight companies and their customers. Prior to his work as a consultant, Mr. Onimus worked for CSX Transportation as Vice President of Market Strategy where he was a member of the commercial leadership team for this $8 billion railroad. Over 4 years they grew revenue by $1 billion through new product development, volume growth, and yield management. He led the CSX strategy on high-density industrial park development and helped to implement these projects in Central Florida, Ohio, and Eastern Pennsylvania. In his earlier years with CSX Transportation, Mr. Onimus led the operating team that developed and implemented a fully automated system that optimized the distribution of the company’s railcar fleet of over 100,000 cars. Additionally, he led negotiation of the division of Conrail’s 40,000 unit railcar fleet and the full re-marking of more than 20,000 CSX allocated railcar fleet prior to Day One operations. Before working at CSX Transportation, Mr. Onimus worked for CSX Intermodal as Director of Business Planning and as a member of the unit’s leadership team. He helped rationalize the terminal network leading to a significant profit improvement and platform for service quality and growth. He also worked for Consolidated Rail Corporation in the Automotive and Intermodal Business Units. Here Mr. Onimus designed and implemented a terminal and train network for the first intermodal double-stack service in the United States. Mr. Onimus earned his Bachelor of Arts, Magna cum Laude in 1984 from Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and earned his Master of Business Administration, Magna cum Laude in 1988, also from Temple University.
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David Steffens

David Steffens Director of Cargo Operations

David Steffens

Director of Cargo Operations

David Steffens
David Steffens is the Director of Cargo Operations at Strategic Rail Finance. He has extensive experience in logistics and supply chain innovation, and he founded or co-founded multiple successful businesses in the transportation and logistics sectors. His most recent company before joining SRF, Keystone Transportation Solutions, addressed the systemic inefficiencies in logistics practices plaguing US forest and agricultural exporters, with specific focus on bulk-2-container transloading and multimodal transportation strategies. Steffens was previously Managing Partner at New Hope Capital Partners where he focused on disruptive supply chain initiatives, intermodal transportation strategies and infrastructure. Steffens also founded and served as President and COO of Certicell, a leading provider of supply chain services and 3rd party after-market asset management to the wireless device industry. Steffens also founded Environmental Reclamation Services, Inc, where he launched his “reverse logistics” protocol to the after-market product and repair industry. In each of these leadership roles, Steffens realized significant revenue growth due largely to innovative service offerings that had bottom-line impact for his customers, leading to highly successful business exits. Steffens received his Bachelor of Business Administration, Accounting in 1989 from Rider University.
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Jerome M (Jerry) Johnson

Jerome M (Jerry) Johnson Industry Consultant

Jerome M (Jerry) Johnson

Industry Consultant

Jerome M (Jerry) Johnson
Jerry Johnson is an expert Rail Industry consultant for Strategic Rail Finance, specializing in the planning and execution of rail line acquisitions, leases, and divestitures, and the development of competitive rail freight marketing strategies. Among his most recent engagements is the structuring of Watco Companies’ successful 2010 bid to operate the 3000-kilometer Western Australia grain gathering network for Perth’s CBH Group. He also led the venture’s commercial and pricing activities through mid-2012. Other recent assignments include the evaluation of rail-related investment opportunities in Asia, South America, and North America. At BNSF Railway from 1995 through 2008 Jerry led a team that bought, leased, or sold over 60 active railroad properties along with their associated track materials, infrastructure assets, rights-of-way, and traffic portfolios. These transactions totaled over 6,000 route miles and ranged in value from under $1 million to over $30 million, including the $100MM sale/donation of BNSF’s Renton-Snohomish, WA line to the Port of Seattle. From 1998 through 2004 Jerry managed the contractual, regulatory and commercial arrangements between BNSF and its 100-plus short line connections. Other assignments at BNSF and predecessor railroads included strategic planning, coal marketing, industrial carload marketing, equipment planning, and joint ventures with connecting railroads. Jerry has also held transportation-related positions at GE Transportation and SRI International and served in the US military as a flight test engineer. Jerry holds degrees in aero engineering from the University of Minnesota, civil/transportation engineering from the University of California at Berkeley, and an MBA from Harvard University.
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Cliff Bassman

Cliff Bassman Business Development Director

Cliff Bassman

Business Development Director

Cliff Bassman
As Business Development Director Cliff heads up SRF’s Strategic Rail Marketing Division. In addition to forging revenue and partnering opportunities for Strategic Rail Finance, Cliff oversees the delivery of digital and conventional marketing services and solutions to SRF clients. Services range from strategy development, marketing action plans, web design, digital marketing and special events. Before joining SRF, Cliff created a health care marketing agency that was twice named to the INC 500 list of fastest-growing privately-held companies. Cliff manages the ongoing refinement of the SRF database of relationships, the largest and most developed network of rail-industry contacts ever assembled. Shortlines, port and rail contractors hire Cliff and team to augment existing resources and initiatives in their search for new growth and business opportunities.
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Jonathan Gilbert

Jonathan Gilbert Consultant

Jonathan Gilbert

Consultant

Jonathan Gilbert
An expert in supply chain management, logistics, and planning, Jonathan Gilbert comes to Strategic Rail Finance with over 25 years of experience in improving service, reducing costs, increasing efficiency, and integrating new technologies in diverse industries. Specializing in strategic sourcing, network optimization, and operations improvement, Jonathan is a founder of the Gilbert Sachs Group and has advised major national and international retailers, distributors, manufacturers, and service companies on transportation, logistics and infrastructure development. Recent clients include Modesto & Empire Traction, Con-Way Truckload, Clean Earth, Commercial Metals Company, United Technologies, Celanese Corporation, Tenneco and Marathon Oil. Prior to his work as a consultant, Mr. Gilbert served as Vice President of Logistics and Planning for NuCO2 of Stuart, Florida, a $135 million company supplying carbonation and Co2 to the food and beverage industry. Mr. Gilbert managed all forecasting, planning, and scheduling of product delivery and field services. Before his work with NuCO2, Mr. Gilbert held leadership positions at MF Electronics, BOC Group, and Pyle Corporation building his career in logistics, supply management, marketing and planning. Additionally, Mr. Gilbert is a Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals member and former Vice President of the New Jersey and New York Chapter of the American Society of Transportation and Logistics. Mr. Gilbert holds a B.S. from the Krannert School of Management at Purdue University and an M.B.A. from the Stern School of Business at New York University.
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Thomas F. Erickson

Thomas F. Erickson Rail Operations Consultant

Thomas F. Erickson

Rail Operations Consultant

Thomas F. Erickson
Tom Erickson is a Rail Operations consultant for Strategic Rail Finance. Tom has 35 years experience working in nearly every aspect of the rail industry: sales and business development, project consultation, due diligence studies, and market research. In 20 years of work with CSX and Conrail, Tom held diverse management positions. At Conrail, he managed market analysis and pricing for automotive and intermodal accounts, headed intermodal bulk marketing for Philadelphia operations, and personally led Conrail’s network of rail-truck transloading terminals. In this last position, he was responsible for the modernization and standardization of transloading assets and procedures, and oversaw a doubling of both tonnage and profits from the division. As head of his own rail consulting firm, Rail Cents Enterprises, Tom focuses on advising Class II and III railroads and shippers in operations, market research, industrial development, network design, and commercial and right-of-way agreements. Tom has drafted feasibility studies for Amtrak, Canadian Pacific, and local government bodies, and has advised on rail privatization projects in Europe, Central America, and Africa. Tom has been published in both Transportation Journal and the Journal of Transportation Law, Logistics and Policy, and also holds a patent on a railroad operating system.
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Gerald B. (Gerry) Stoughton

Gerald B. (Gerry) Stoughton Public-Private Infrastructure Advisor

Gerald B. (Gerry) Stoughton

Public-Private Infrastructure Advisor

Gerald B. (Gerry) Stoughton
Gerry Stoughton is a seasoned former public sector executive with experience in the planning, development, financing and delivery of transportation and infrastructure projects. He is also a Registered Municipal Advisor with the SEC and MSRB. During his more than 30 years at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, he worked on projects covering all modes of transportation – air, road, rail and water. He spearheaded the development of financings for two of the agency’s largest transportation projects – the $1.9 billion JFK AirTrain and the $1.5 billion Goethals Bridge Replacement. For the AirTrain project, he was the agency’s financial lead on the procurement and selection process. The project’s financing included Port Authority funds (reserves and bonds) along with Passenger Facility Charges (PFCs). With the Goethals Bridge, as Director of Financial Analysis for the agency, he led financial staff in advancing the project using a public-private-partnership (P3) structure – the first of its kind for the Port Authority. The financing involved developer equity, a USDOT TIFIA loan, and private activity bonds (PABs.) The project received the 2013 North American Deal of the Year Award from Infrastructure Investor. With respect to rail projects, Gerry provided financial analytic support for two major rail car purchase programs (approximately $1 billion combined) for the agency’s PATH rail rapid transit system. He also worked on the development, financing, and fee structures for intermodal rail freight facilities at the Port Authority’s marine terminals. In 2008, he participated in the Port Authority’s $16 million acquisition of New York – New Jersey Rail LLC, which is a switching and terminal operation that provides a car float service between NJ and NY across upper New York harbor. Gerry has a BA from Columbia, a Masters from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and an advanced professional certificate in finance from NYU. After retiring from the Port Authority in 2014, he formed Stoughton Consulting LLC.
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Michael Koontz

Michael Koontz Social & Environmental Benefits/Costs

Michael Koontz

Social & Environmental Benefits/Costs

Michael Koontz
Michael Koontz leads Strategic Rail Finance’s Social and Environmental Costs-Benefits practice, specializing in producing socioeconomic impact analyses to accompany USDOT TIGER, CMAQ, and RRIF funding applications. Mike managed the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) Program with the Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation from 2001 until 2014. As program manager, he implemented CMAQ, guiding an annual investment of more than $2 billion over three transportation authorizations. Mike’s focus on mobile source emissions reduction and highway congestion relief included grant review and assessment for intermodal transfer facilities, port infrastructure projects, and numerous applications for diesel retrofit acquisitions. He also authored detailed program guidance and a number of legislative interpretations involving the $30-billion, 20-year program. Prior to his role as CMAQ manager, Mike was a transportation planner in a number of field offices for the FHWA and served for six years as a transportation network capacity analyst.
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Ken Foxx

Ken Foxx Consultant

Ken Foxx

Consultant

Ken Foxx
Ken Foxx is a Senior Consultant at Strategic Rail Finance with 44 years of railway experience and expertise in locomotive manufacturing, technology and repair, financial administration, operations development, and strategic planning. He has advised on rail operations throughout the world on industrial services, business process management, and end-product improvements. Mr. Foxx’s independent consulting has followed an impressive 30-year career with General Motors Electro-Motive Division from 1974 to 2004. He started as a student at GM’s High Potential Employee Cooperative Education Program where he was first introduced to locomotive systems, product design and manufacturing. From there he was promoted seven times, developing many successful business lines, including $21 million in annual locomotive overhaul business with the Santa Fe Railroad and bringing in $100 million in annual sales as a liaison between EMD and BNSF, Kansas City Southern, and Union Pacific. In his later years with the company, Mr. Foxx managed the return of EMD’s $50 million remanufacturing service operation to profitability and served as EMD’s Fleet Manager for the SD90MAC locomotives operated on the Union Pacific Railroad. He retired from GM as the Managing Director of Global Warranty in 2004 with experience in all aspects of new locomotive manufacturing, rebuild, maintenance, repair, customer support, commercial sales, leasing, warranty, reliability, design, and domestic and international program management. Mr. Foxx earned his BSME from the University of Illinois and his MBA from Northwestern and the GM Institute. Mr. Foxx is a member of the Benton City Arkansas Planning Commission, a community development and athletics mentor, a NCAA baseball umpire and a Six Sigma Black Belt. He is also involved in animal rescue and care, and is currently learning Spanish.
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Tanya Seaman

Tanya Seaman Project Analyst

Tanya Seaman

Project Analyst

Tanya Seaman
Tanya Seaman, Project Analyst, comes to Strategic Rail Finance with a varied background in transportation. Prior to working with Strategic Rail Finance, Ms. Seaman was the Founding Executive Director of PhillyCarShare, the largest North American nonprofit car-sharing organization that enabled individuals and businesses to use cars on an hourly basis while foregoing car ownership. The City of Philadelphia contracted with PhillyCarShare in a world-first engagement to manage fleet-sharing between departments, enabling the City to reduce its fleet by over 300 vehicles and save $2M per year. Ms. Seaman began the company with $25K and built it to revenues of $16M by the sixth year. Before PhillyCarShare, Ms. Seaman was a transportation planner and GIS analyst for the Center City District in Philadelphia. Preceding her time as a transportation planner, Ms. Seaman was a designer and CAD manager at various architectural firms.

Ms. Seaman is an active community member, serving in leadership positions for local organizations including the Vision Zero Task Force, the South Philly Food Co-op, and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. Ms. Seaman has been honored by the Pennsylvania Environmental Council’s Sustainability Awards, the “40 Under 40” Award by the Philadelphia Business Journal, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for the founding and her leadership of PhillyCarShare. She has presented at conferences and universities, and she currently co-produces a radio show on local climate action. Ms. Seaman earned a Bachelor of Science in Design from the University of California at Davis and a Master’s in City Planning from the University of Pennsylvania.

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Avi Eden

Avi Eden Executive Consultant

Avi Eden

Executive Consultant

Avi Eden
Avi Eden is an Executive Consultant for Strategic Rail Finance. Avi specializes in corporate structure and operations, mergers & acquisitions, financing, and strategy with a specialty in international business development. He has spent significant time in the People’s Republic of China working with various governmental and private-sector companies including the development of a mine and a refinery for Tantalum, an element used in the manufacture of electronic components. Previously as Executive Vice President and Vice Chairman of the Board of Vishay Intertechnology, Inc., Avi negotiated, structured, and led the teams that consummated more than $1.5 billion in transactions. On the finance side Avi directed Vishay in the issuance of stock and notes with a face value also in excess of $1.5 billion. Before his years with Vishay, Avi was a Senior Associate with Montgomery, McCracken, Walker & Rhoads in Philadelphia, PA. Avi got his BA from University of Cincinnati and his J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is on the board of the Delaware River Port Authority.
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