Core Values in Action

Gene “is hands-down the most practical, business-oriented outside counsel that I have ever worked with. He not only responds to requests for advice immediately, he routinely provides a list of 3 to 7 options, many very creative, for addressing the issue at hand, and he clearly delineates the legal and business pros and cons of each.” - Brian R. Henry, Vice President and Senior Managing Counsel - The Minute Maid Company, Value-Added Dairy and Nutritional Health Beverages, Venturing and Emerging Brands and North American Competition Counsel of the Coca-Cola Company.


Gene “is THE expert on legal issues related to channel marketing, policy, pricing and programs. He is superb at thoroughly educating you on complex, important issues and explaining options. He is service oriented and delivers great results and value. Specifically, if you are trying to combat Internet price and program violations, [he] is your guy.” - John Gitelman, Vice President of Marketing of Aqua Products Inc.

Gene Zelek is a Partner in the Corporate and Litigation Practice Groups and serves as Co-Leader of Freeborn's Antitrust and Trade Regulation Practice Group.

Gene focuses his practice on marketing-related law, applying extensive counseling, transactional and litigation experience on behalf of a wide variety of leading consumer and industrial businesses and consulting firms throughout the world. His areas of emphasis include antitrust, pricing and distribution, as well as branding, licensing, intellectual property, entertainment, strategic alliances, supply relationships, complex contracts, advertising and new product development. 

He is a frequent speaker and author on these topics in addition to being a marketing faculty member of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management since 1985. Chambers USA calls Gene a "renowned expert on marketing-related law, his practice encompassing antitrust, pricing and distribution.  Sources single him out as 'an exceptional counselor who really thinks outside the box.'"

Gene joined Freeborn after practicing marketing law at a large international law firm and The Quaker Oats Company, before becoming a Quaker Product Manager with shared responsibility for Quaker’s Cap’n Crunch® cereal and Chewy granola bars.

Honors & Awards: 
  • BTI Client Service All-Star
  • Martindale-Hubbell legal ability/ethical standards rating (“A-V”) - Highest possible rating
  • Super Lawyers - Antitrust, Intellectual Property and Franchising and Dealership (multiple years)
  • Leading Lawyers - Antitrust; Advertising & Media; Arts, Entertainment & Sports and Intellectual Property (multiple years)
  • The Best Lawyers in America - Antitrust, Advertising and Entertainment - 2017 (multiple years)
  • Chambers-USA Guide to America’s Leading Lawyers for Business - Antitrust, and Media and Entertainment (multiple years)
  • PLC Cross-Border Handbook - Competition/Antitrust Law (multiple years)
  • Corporate Intl Magazine Global Award - Marketing Law - Attorney of the Year in Illinois (multiple years)
Professional Activities: 
  • Founding Member, Institute of Channel Management
  • Professional Pricing Society (PPS)
  • International Licensing Industry Merchandisers' Association (LIMA)
  • Brand Activation Association (BAA), formerly Promotion Marketing Association (PMA)
  • Sections or Committees of the American Bar Association focusing on Antitrust, Intellectual Property, Franchising and Entertainment

Since 2001, Gene has written, co-authored or contributed to the following works, which reflect only part of the scope of his practice:

  • Combatting Online Resale Price Erosion: What Works, What Doesn't and Why, Part 1: The Basics (April, 2016), Part 2: MRP and MAP Policies - The Practical Issues (May, 2016), Manufacturers' Agents Association for the Foodservice Industry, MAFSI Matters (Manufacturers Edition).
  • Deceptive Price Increases: Nothing to Sneeze At, The Wiglaf Journal (July 2015).
  • Good Intentions/Bad Execution: 10 Problems in Minimum Resale Price or MAP Programs that Annoy Resellers, Performance Warehouse Association (PWA) White Paper (2015).
  • Creating a Resale Price or MAP Policy that Works for Your Company: Everything You Always Wanted to Know, But Didn't Know Who to Ask, Performance Warehouse Association (PWA) White Paper (2014).
  • Dictating or Encouraging Franchise Pricing, 20 Franchising Business & Law Alert 1 (March 2014).
  • Legal Tools that Support Value Pricing, in Visionary Pricing: Reflections and Advances in Honor of Dan Nimer (Gerald Smith ed.), 19 Advances in Business Marketing & Purchasing (2012).
  • Facilitating Value Pricing, in the Food and Foodservice Industries, Freeborn & Peters Contemporary Legal Issues White Paper (2011).
  • The Legal Framework for Pricing, Thomas T. Nagle, John E. Hogan and Joseph Zale, The Strategies and Tactics of Pricing (5th ed. 2010); also, as Thomas T. Nagle and John E. Hogan, (4th ed. 2006) and, as Thomas T. Nagle and Reed K. Holden, (3d ed. 2002).
  • Walter L. Baker, Michael V. Marn and Craig C. Zawada, The Price Advantage (2d ed. 2010) and, as Michael V. Marn, Eric V. Roegner and Craig C. Zawada, (2004).
  • Role of Regulation in Setting Prices, Kellogg on Marketing (Alice M. Tybout and Bobby J. Calder eds., 2d ed. 2010) and (Dawn Iacobucci ed., 2001).
  • Avoiding Corrosive Price Competition, Institute of Channel Management (Volume 3, Number 1) (2009).
  • ABA Section of Antitrust Law and Forum Committee on Franchising, Antitrust Handbook for Franchise and Distribution Practitioners (2008).
  • Reed K. Holden and Mark Burton, Pricing with Confidence: Ten Ways to Stop Leaving Money on The Table (2008).
  • Mike Marks, Tim Horan and Mike Emerson, Working at Cross Purposes: How Distributors and Manufacturers Can Manage Conflict Successfully (2006).
  • ABA Section of Antitrust Law, Frequently Asked Questions (2004).
  • Establishing and Maintaining an Effective Resale Price Policy: A Colgate How-To, Antitrust 8 (Summer 2003) (co-authored with Brian R. Henry).
  • Anne T. Coughlan, Erin Anderson, Louis W. Stern and Adel I. El-Ansary, Marketing Channels (6th ed. 2001).
Speaking Engagements: 
  • Speaker, "Beyond the Barks and Howls: Effectively Combating Resale Price Erosion in the Pet Industry with Resale Price and MAP Policies," Moderator, "MAP Policy Panel Discussion," and Participant, One-on-One Meetings, 2nd Annual Pet Industry Leadership Conference, Pet Industry Association, Laguana Beach, CA (January 31-February 2, 2017).
  • Presenter, "Dispelling the Myths and Misconceptions around Resale Price and MAP Policies: What Manufacturers and Retailers Need to Know," The Running Event, Independent Running Retailer Association, Orlando, FL (November 29-December 2, 2016).
  • Presenter, "Putting the Brakes on Online Discounting," Moderator, "Curbing Resale Price Erosion: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly," and Participant, "Ask the Experts," One-on-One Attorney Meetings, 2016 SEMA Show, Specialty Equipment Market Association, Las Vegas, NV (October 31-November 4, 2016).
  • Workshop Leader, "Successfully Combating Corrosive Competition in Resale Pricing," 27th Annual Fall Pricing Workshops and Conference, Professional Pricing Society, Las Vegas, NV (October 25-28, 2016).
  • Workshop Co-Leader, "Channel Compensation Strategy," Frank Lynn & Associates, Inc., Itasca, IL (October 5, 2016).
  • Presenter, "Office Hours with Gene Zelek," Market Track/Channel IQ Webinar (September 20, 2016).
  • Participant, PWA Conference, Performance Warehouse Association, Anaheim, CA (September 11-14, 2016).
  • Speaker, "Emerging Trends in Resale Price and MAP Policies," Panelist, "A Roadmap for Tomorrow: An Expert Panel Discussion," and Discussion Leader, "After Hours with Gene Zelek," Compass 2016, Channel IQ Annual Summit, Chicago, IL (September 7-8, 2016).
  • Workshop Co-Leader, "Channel Compensation Strategy," Frank Lynn & Associates, Inc., Itasca, IL (June 8, 2016).
  • Presenter, "Effective Value Pricing and Channels: What Every Smart Pricer Should Know," 27th Annual Spring Pricing Workshops and Conference, Professional Pricing Society, Rosemont, IL (May 3-6, 2016).
  • Workshop Co-Leader, "Channel Compensation Strategy," Frank Lynn & Associates, Inc., Itasca, IL (March 9, 2016).
  • Presenter, "Office Hours with Gene Zelek," Channel IQ Webinar (March 8, 2016).
  • Co-Presenter, "What Brands Can Expect in 2016," Channel IQ Webinar (January 19, 2016).
  • Presenter, "Fighting Resale Price Erosion in the Foodservice Industry: Everything You Always Wanted to Know, But Didn't Know Who to Ask," and Participant, One-on-One Attorney Meetings, Executive Management Breakout, Sales Management Forum, Manufacturers' Agents Association for the Foodservice Industry (MAFSI), Phoenix, AZ (January 13-16, 2016).

“Creating a Killer MAP Policy/MAP 101,” Channel IQ Podcast featuring Gene Zelek, Jr.

"Expanding Your Policy/ MAP 201," Channel IQ Podcast featuring Gene Zelek, Jr.

"The Graduate Program/MAP 301," Channel IQ Podcast featuring Gene Zelek, Jr.

15 Aug News

Twelve Freeborn Attorneys Ranked as “Best Lawyers” for 2017

Partners Roger H. Bickel, Theodore I. Brenner, Joel T. Cooper, Jeffery M. Cross, Ronald S. Evans, Andrew L. Goldstein, Mark R. Goodman, David C. Gustman, John E. Stevens, Eileen B. Trost, Alexander S. Vesselinovitch and Eugene F. Zelek, Jr. have been named to the 2017 edition of The Best Lawyers in America®.
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J.D., Northwestern University School of Law, cum laude, Executive Editor, Law Review
M.B.A., Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management, with distinction, Distinguished Scholar
B.S., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, with high honors

State Bar Admissions

  • Illinois 

Federal Bar Admissions

  • United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois 

Teaching experience

Gene has served on the marketing faculty of Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management for more than 25 years, teaching an annual 10-week MBA course, "The Legal Aspects of Marketing Strategy" for 11 years and in the Kellogg Executive Programs "Pricing Strategies and Tactics" and "Marketing Channel Strategies". He regularly participates as a speaker in or conducts many other domestic and international public and private courses, conferences and workshops.

Community Service

  • Counsel, City Club of Chicago (Civic Organization)

Case Studies

Suppliers to the Food Industry - TriMark USA Read More »