By Tony Farina
When William Hochul Jr. announced earlier this month that he was resigning as U. S. Attorney for the Western District of New York effectiveOct. 28after serving as the top federal prosecutor in the 17-county area since 2010, it caught many local attorneys and others by surprise.
The announcement seemed to come out of the blue, leaving many to wonder why he was leaving and what was next for Hochul who was described by defense attorney Rodney Personius, himself a former assistant U. S. attorney, as a “phenomenal courtroom prosecutor, the best I’ve ever seen.”
Hochul, 57, said little about his future plans when he announced he was going to retire, but this newspaper has learned that his next stop may be at Buffalo-based Delaware North, the global hospitality and food service giant with revenues of $2.6 billion.
Sources say Hochul is the perfect candidate to join Delaware North as general counsel, replacing Rajat Shah who resigned from the company last June “to pursue other opportunities,” creating the vacancy that has been temporarily handled since Shah’s departure by Vice President Thomas E. Popek.
When I called Bill Hochul this week and asked him about the possibility of him going to Delaware North, all he would say is “I’m concentrating right now on my retirement,” adding that after 30 great years with the Department of Justice, he was ready to move on.
While I pressed him about the Delaware North job, he stuck to his message that right now his focus was on his retirement next week as U. S. attorney for the Western District, saying it had been great but it was time to go.
A phone message to Delaware North was not returnedon Tuesday, but that comes as no surprise since if the deal is set, as our sources believe, the parties will want to announce it on their own terms after Hochul retires.
Hochul was one of the longest serving U. S. attorneys in local history and he made a name for himself taking on street gangs, public corruption, and was chief of the Anti-Terrorism Unit and National Security Division before he was nominated for the top job by President Obama in 2009 and confirmed unanimously by the Senate in 2010.
When he announced his upcoming retirement, he said it had no connection whatsover with the charges filed against three local men by the U. S. Attorney for the Southern District in the Buffalo Billion corruption probe focused on contracts connected to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s major Western New York development program. Hochul is married to Kathy Hochul, New York’s lieutenant governor. The governor is not known to be a target of that probe.
Also, Hochul reportedly recused himself from the investigation led by the state attorney general’s office and the FBI into the activities of former Erie County Democratic Chairman Steve Pigeon that yielded charges against Pigeon and a Supreme Court judge who has since resigned.
The Buffalo Billion probe, led by U. S. Attorney Preet Bharara, is expected to yield federal indictments in the coming weeks against Lou Ciminelli and two of the top executives at LPCiminelli Inc., Michael Laipple and Kevin Schuler.
The Department of Justice website lists the U. S. Attorney’s salary at between $100,000 and $150,000, but if Hochul indeed takes the job as general counsel at Delaware North, he would most certainly get a hefty pay raise, estimated by some to be in the $400,000 range.
Hochul’s resume and the excellent reputation he enjoys throughout the area would certainly make him a very attractive hire for Delaware North. As one of our sources said, it looks like a very good fit.
While he undoubtedly could have stayed on as the top federal prosecutor until the next president took office, Hochul may have chosen to leave on his own terms now and move to Delaware North for a position that would offer excitement and many challenges across the globe.