Avoiding the pitfalls of bad business decisions is just one area of expertise Chris Eiben ’67 has honed over the years. He is Ohio’s only certified legal investigator. Throughout his career, Chris has worked in civil rights investigation with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission in construction and real estate development and in oil and gas exploration. In the early 1980s, after selling his oil and gas interests, he pioneered a product called a video settlement brochure to spur insurance companies to settle prior to trial. The brochures have netted tens of millions of dollars in settlements.
Through writing and producing the videos, Chris unearthed a knack for identifying issues and facts for developing civil and criminal cases. “Today, I do mostly due diligence and background investigations for corporations and institutions,” says the Gilmour graduate, who lives in Cleveland with his wife Jayne and sons Theo and Charlie.
Four years ago, he wrote the book “It Pays to Be Paranoid: Securing Business Success by Preparing for the Worst” to help readers prevent mistakes that could result in catastrophic expenses, losses, and bankruptcies. His book draws on case studies, examining business ventures that went wrong, analyzing mistakes, and providing ways to rectify them. The book teaches entrepreneurs how to size up people and deals and avoid legal problems. He has written extensively on Cleveland history, including two biographies, and contributed several sections for “The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History.”
One of Chris’s investigations took his career in a new direction in 2005. He was conducting a background investigation for a prominent family exploring the prospects of drilling for natural gas on family property. The venture resulted in his management of Little Mountain Holdings LLC, which has 42 members who collectively own 1,600 contiguous acres of land. The group of neighbors is developing natural gas beneath their land in Geauga and Lake counties in Northeast Ohio. “The landowner consortium is the first of its kind in Ohio and perhaps the nation,” the alum says. He is working with other local groups on similar plans for drilling on their properties.
In his spare time, Chris enjoys reading, hiking, skiing, and swimming. The latter is a carryover from his days as a school record holder and co-captain of Gilmour’s Varsity Swim Team. “My fast twitch muscles are long gone and I now only swim slowly and easy distances,” Chris confides. He regards his years at Gilmour as the most formative in his life and is grateful for his many gifted teachers. “They taught me that learning can be a passionate experience requiring discipline and rigor,” he says crediting his Gilmour education for an effortless transition to Williams College, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in English literature. “It wasn’t just my teachers who made Gilmour so special, so unforgettable,” Chris notes. “It was equally my classmates,” he says singling out former Gilmour Trustee and Vice Chairman Bob Tomaro, who died in 2006. “Bob personified the magic of our class. The class of 1967 was truly unique, a wild collection of fantastic people,” says Chris, adding that his Gilmour friendships have been lasting and essential.