For Whom The Road Tolls
Steve Humke was instrumental to the creation of the groundbreaking lease of the Indiana Toll Road
Published in 2007 Indiana Super Lawyers magazine
on February 15, 2007
Updated on June 11, 2009
Steve Humke knows a little something about working in the trenches. He found employment as a ditch-digger on summer breaks during college. And he worked long and hard as the lead counsel for the Indiana Finance Authority’s $3.8 billion, 75-year lease of the 157-mile Indiana Toll Road.
The 46-year-old Ice Miller attorney wrote the contract that leased the public road––which connects Chicago and the Ohio Turnpike, and has been called “The Main Street of the Midwest”––to Cintra-Macquarie, a private Spanish-Australian consortium. The deal took a scant nine months to complete, making it the fastest of its kind in history. And the size of the winning bid is nothing to scoff at, either.
“I don’t think anybody thought it was going to be that big. Especially since the Chicago Skyway was leased for only $1.8 billion,” says Humke. “But we got $3.8 billion for ours! And the skyway deal took almost two years.”
To prepare himself for the scrutiny the deal would receive, Humke envisioned the contract appearing on the front page of The New York Times. “There were people looking at the contract just to attack it,” he says. “But it held up.”
As a founding partner of Ice Miller’s private equity and venture services group, Humke has a reputation for being “The Deal Guy.” He revels in the moniker. “I enjoy the creativity of deals, doing the transactions, creating value and finding a solution so that both parties end up coming out ahead,” he says.
“I also like getting my own way,” he says. “But in most deals, you can’t get your own way, entirely. You can get what you need but you might have to come up with another way to do that so that both sides can achieve what they need to achieve. That’s where a creative adviser adds real value. And that’s where it’s fun.”
Humke’s deal-making skills impressed Tomer Pinkusiewicz, the attorney who represented the group on the other side of the bargaining table, Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte, S.A. and Macquarie Infrastructure Group. “Steve is an exceptionally good, pragmatic, business-minded and gracious lawyer,” he says.
Gracious, yes, but Humke has little patience for critics who’ve called the deal “highway robbery.” He says tolls will rise regularly, ensuring that the consortium will make a profit if they manage the road well, but that “the best part of the deal is that Cintra-Macquarie has to meet a higher standard of operating the road than the state did. And if they don’t meet that standard? We take the Toll Road back. It’s in the contract!
“I don’t see a downside for the state because Cintra-Macquarie is huge,” Humke explains. “They are very professional and have a tremendous amount riding on the success of this venture. If I were them, I would want to create economic development along the toll road corridor to drive traffic.”
Some critics voiced concerns about turning over the operation of a vital state asset to private business interests. But Humke defends the state’s position. “There’s growing interest in the United States to doing deals with our infrastructure,” he says. “Governments recognize that it’s a good way to fund improvements without raising taxes.”
The deal has already won accolades from industry watchers. In November 2006, The Bond Buyer newspaper gave The Indiana Toll Road Concession its first-ever award for “the most innovative non-traditional public finance transaction––including privatizations and public-private partnerships.” A week later, the American Road & Transportation Builders Association presented Gov. Mitch Daniels––who called the deal “the single best thing the General Assembly could possibly do to put Hoosiers to work and money in their pocket”––with an award for the project.
Humke was born in Springfield, Ill., to Carolyn and Ray Humke. A Bell Telephone executive, Ray moved his family around the country almost every three years before finally settling in Indianapolis, where he was CEO of Indiana Bell.
When Steve Humke was 13 and his family lived in New Jersey, one of his first jobs was as a country club caddy. “There’s a certain temperament in New Jersey that you don’t find in Indiana, where people are polite and considerate,” he says. “Caddying for people who hadn’t been told ‘no’ a lot as children gave me good people skills.
Humke spent his last two years of high school in Lake Forest, Ill., where he ran track, bagged groceries at the Sunshine Grocery Store and dreamed of being an Air Force pilot. He considered both West Point and the U.S. Air Force Academy before deciding to forgo his military ambitions. “With my eyesight, I would have been a navigator,” he says, adjusting his glasses conspicuously. “And I didn’t see any point in being consigned [to the] second job in a two-man plane.”
An avid American history buff, Humke’s interest in the Southeast led him to Duke University, where he graduated summa cum laude in 1981, after only three years of school.
While there, he served as vice president, president and rush chairman of his fraternity, Sigma Nu. He also whetted his legal appetite by becoming a university judicial board investigator. “I took down the stories of the accused, got the facts and either recommended prosecution or no prosecution,” he explains.
That training came in handy during Humke’s tenure as Sigma Nu president. An in-house schism opened between the thinkers and the drinkers. Half wanted to be party boys, while “the other members thought [the fraternity] should be a place where you were a family and helped each other out,” he recalls. “I ended up having to force 10 brothers out of the fraternity. It was tough because some of them were my best friends. But they were killing the fraternity. Today, fraternities take a more responsible attitude. But back then, it didn’t matter as long as you were paying dues.”
Following graduation, Humke spent nine months in Chicago working 70-hour weeks as a tax accountant for Price Waterhouse before attending the University of Chicago Law School, from which he graduated cum laude in 1985. He moved to Washington, D.C., after being hired by the prestigious international law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. “I did banking deals and I hated it,” he says. “I then became a corporate lawyer doing mergers and acquisitions work for about two years before becoming a tax lawyer.”
After Humke turned down opportunities to move to Hong Kong and New York, the firm suggested that he work in the Dallas office. But neither he nor his new wife, Lisa McCarthy, wanted to live there. Then Indiana came into the picture. “I didn’t grow up in Indianapolis, but while driving in from the airport to go to my Mom’s surprise birthday party at the Skyline Club, I decided this might be a good place to live,” Humke says. “I was tired of the East Coast, tired of D.C., and wanted to get back to the people who you could trust what they say. That’s very Midwestern. It’s not typical in other parts of the world.”
He joined Ice Miller, where he has served as the lead attorney on numerous completed acquisitions and numerous financings, which include private placements, venture capital transactions and public offerings. He’s represented Baker Hill Corporation in the sale to Experian; HH Gregg and shareholders in the $310 million buy-out of family shareholders not involved in the company; and Crossman Communities, Inc., in the company’s $600 million sale to Beazer Homes, USA Inc.
The Humkes’ home is in Zionsville. They have a 13-year-old daughter, Rachael, two cats and three Portuguese water dogs named Elvis, Tsunami and Nemo. The family boards their horse, a Hanoverian Cross named Cruise. “When we moved to Indianapolis, I made a deal with Lisa. If either one of us was unhappy after two years, we would move and she could pick the town,” Humke says. “But if we were both happy, I would buy her a horse. I had no idea how much horses cost.
“It’s probably the only negotiation that I ever did without knowing the facts.”