Frederick Martin Baron 1947-2008

Fred Baron

My dad lived the best life anyone could ever hope for. One day soon, I will post an update on the details of how we obtained Tysabri. I personally think the drug may turn out to be everything we expected as my father seemed to be responding positively, but may have received it too late. After doctors, lawyers, politicians and others involved have been unable to justify Biogen’s decisions, l continue to only know James C. Mullen from Biogen as inhumane. 

Yesterday I heard that Senator John Kerry is promoting the need to make some changes so this does not happen again.

For my Dad, and to everyone else who may have cancer, based on this very new science, I remain optimistic that we are very close to beating this.

Below reprinted from the Dallas Morning News:

By JOE SIMNACHER / The Dallas Morning News
Jeffrey Weiss contributed to this report.

Frederick M. “Fred” Baron, the plaintiff’s lawyer who amassed a fortune that he used to rejuvenate the Democratic Party in Texas, died Thursday at his Dallas home of complications of cancer. He was 61.

Mr. Baron became known as the King of Torts for his more than 30 years of successfully representing clients injured by toxic substances, beginning with a 1977 asbestos case.

“Fred is a guy who changed the world, cared about helping people and wasn’t in it for himself,” said Marc Stanley, a longtime friend and chairman of the National Jewish Democratic Council.

Mr. Baron “loved anything where he felt he was helping people,” said his wife, Lisa Blue-Baron of Dallas. “His whole thing was trying to make things better for other people.”

Mr. Baron’s desire to help people fired his passion for the law and politics, Ms. Blue-Baron said.

Mr. Baron was especially well respected in Texas political circles.

Texas Democratic Chairman Boyd Richie said Mr. Baron was a true champion of the people.

“A fierce advocate for those who believed they had no voice, Fred made it his life mission to protect and defend those who needed the most help,” he said.

Former U.S. Rep. Martin Frost called Mr. Baron a great man.

“He was generous and believed in the Democratic Party,” Mr. Frost said. “He believed that people should have an opportunity in life. He single-handedly started to change the political face of Texas.”

Mr. Baron became a national pioneer in asbestos litigation, founding his own law firm to pursue a case that his employer rejected.

“Fred left with the case, because he thought he’d be able to prosecute a case like that,” Mr. Stanley said.

Mr. Baron built a lucrative practice and shared his financial success with a host of causes from the arts to the Texas Democratic Trust, which he founded in September 2005.

“The party was literally broke,” Mr. Stanley said. “There was no energy, there were no funds. Fred enabled a structure to be rebuilt to support and elect Democratic candidates in Texas.”

Many credit Mr. Baron’s trust with giving Dallas County Democrats the wherewithal that led to their success in the November 2006 election.

“He contributed not only his money, but his time and his vision,” Mr. Stanley said.

Mr. Baron’s philanthropic efforts weren’t limited to the political arena.

The first floor of the Baron home was devoted to public charity.

“His house was open to any organization that wanted an event there,” Mr. Stanley said. The home was used for fundraisers for all kinds of Dallas religious, cultural and social justice organizations, Mr. Stanley said.

Mr. Baron was especially proud of the Baron & Blue Foundation, which is dedicated to eliminating homelessness and improving low-cost housing in the Dallas area, his wife said.

“I don’t remember … [the Barons] ever saying no to any request,” Mr. Stanley said. “He was just so generous and open.”

National spotlight

Mr. Baron was catapulted into the national political limelight twice this fall, first when it was revealed that he had paid to move the woman who had an affair with former presidential hopeful John Edwards. Mr. Baron had been Mr. Edwards’ top fundraiser.

Earlier this month, Mr. Baron was granted FDA approval for an experimental treatment in a last-ditch effort to save his life.

In his last battle with a corporation, Mr. Baron sought permission for doctors at the Mayo Clinic to use the drug Tysabri to treat his final-stage multiple myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow.

The drug company, Biogen Idec Inc., argued that the experimental use might jeopardize the drug – approved to treat multiple sclerosis and Crohn’s disease – for future use in chemotherapy.

Mr. Baron had a host of prominent backers in his quest for his experimental treatment, including seven-time Tour de France champion and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong.

Mr. Baron, who was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, moved to Smithville, Texas, with his mother, when he was 15 years old.

Legal career

He was educated at the University of Texas at Austin, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1968 and a doctor of law degree in 1971.

Mr. Baron said a 1970 Ralph Nader speech in Austin influenced him to use the law to regulate business conduct in ways the government could not.

In 1977, Mr. Baron founded his Dallas firm, Baron & Associates, which became Baron & Budd, where he later was joined by his wife.

Mr. Baron was highly successful litigating for plaintiffs injured by substances including asbestos, pesticides and lead.

Late in his career, he had been criticized for operating a legal assembly line. His detractors charged that he coached witness testimony.

“I’ve always thought that that was a rogue paralegal,” Mr. Stanley said. “I know that Fred didn’t treat his clients like a factory. He cared very deeply about each and every one of them.”

Mr. Stanley cited Mr. Baron’s last case – a toxic land settlement for a Pennsylvania client – that he took a deposition for last month in Washington, D.C.

“He was talking personally about how this would affect the lives of the clients,” Mr. Stanley said. “You could see the passion in his eyes and hear it in his voice that he felt for his client.

"He was very excited about it, it was his last case. He felt like he had really helped his clients and pretty much demolished the other side’s expert.”

Mr. Baron’s professional recognition included election as president of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America in 2002. He sold his firm and moved to Washington, D.C., while heading the association.

Mr. Baron had worked closely with national political figures. He had been a longtime supporter and friend of former President Bill Clinton.

In 2003, Mr. Baron all but stopped practicing law and became the lead fundraiser for Mr. Edwards. The next year, he headed the Kerry-Edwards general election finance team. He was the head of Mr. Edwards’ 2008 presidential bid.

Services will be at 4 p.m. Monday at Sparkman/Hillcrest Funeral Home. 

In addition to his wife, Mr. Baron is survived by two adult children, a son, Andrew Baron, and a daughter, Courtney Baron, both of New York; and three young children, Alessandra Baron , Nathalie Baron and Caroline Baron.

The family asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Texas Democratic Trust at www.texasdemocratictrust.com or the Lance Armstrong Foundation at www.livestrong.org.


In Memoriam: Texas Plaintiffs Lawyer Fred Baron

Reprinted from Law.com by Miriam Rozen and John Council

Dallas plaintiffs lawyer Fred Baron died Thursday after battling multiple myeloma, a blood cancer. He was 61.

Baron was known for his representation of plaintiffs in asbestos litigation.

While a student at the University of Texas School of Law, from which he graduated in 1971, he was “proselytized” by a speech given by Ralph Naderabout using “the law as an instrument of social change to regulate corporate conduct,” Baron toldTexas Lawyer in December 2006.

Baron’s first job was with a Dallas labor law firm, Mullinax, Wells, Mauzy & Collins. It was there that he filed his first asbestos case.

In 1975, he left to form Dallas’ Baron & Budd. Baron sold his interest in the firm in 2002. Baron and his wife, attorney Lisa Blue, who also is a former Baron & Budd partner, subsequently formed Dallas’ Baron & Blue.

“He took toxic-tort cases when few other lawyers would take them, because they were too expensive, too risky and too complicated,” says Brent Rosenthal, a former partner of Baron’s and a close friend.

Darlene Ewing, chairwoman of the Dallas County Democratic Party, says Baron had a huge impact on law and politics in Texas.

“He blazed a trail for the little guy who couldn’t afford a lawyer and took on corporations,” Ewing says. “He did that when other people weren’t doing that.”

Baron, a former president of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, was a prominent Democratic Party fundraiser.

“He single-handedly revitalized the Democratic Party in Texas,” says Susan Hays, a solo practitioner in Dallas and former chairwoman of the Dallas Democratic Party.

Baron founded and heavily funded the Texas Democratic Trust, an organization that helped Democrats win more than 40 trial benches in Dallas County during the 2006 general election.

“He was willing to put the money in an organization that was floundering and was ill-equipped to fight its way back,” Ewing says. “I’m glad he got to see the fruit of some of his work.

Matt Angle, director of the Texas Democratic Trust, says Baron was more than a contributor to the party. "He was someone that inspired the Democratic Party and people in the Democratic Party to fight back and to fight back smartly.

"He had such a positive outlook,” Angle says. “Anytime you saw Fred, he was in a good mood and it was a good day and good things were going to happen. It was infectious.”

Baron, who recently served as the finance chairman of U.S. Sen. John Edwards’ presidential campaign, came under fire this summer for providing financial assistance to a woman with whom Edwards admitted having an affair. At the time, Baron told Texas Lawyer that, when he paid for the woman’s move to California, he was simply helping out a friend. Baron said he only learned of the affair shortly before the rest of the nation did in August.

In recent weeks, news of Baron’s illness surfaced after his son, Andrew Baron, on Oct. 14 posted a letter online that Andrew had sent to James C. Mullen, the chief executive officer of Cambridge, Mass.-based Biogen Idec Inc. In the letter, Andrew Baron sought to reverse Biogen’s initial decision to deny his father’s physician’s request to give Fred Baron an experimental cancer drug treatment, Tysabri, that Andrew argued could have save his father’s life. Baron subsequently received the medication.

Baron “was very passionate, very energetic and very creative,” says Rosenthal, adding, “it took a degree of perseverance to develop a successful working relationship with him because of that but once you did, he was loyal to you forever to a fault.”


Tysabri Obtained

Thanks to the persistence and hard work of so many friends, Frederick has received Tysabri.  The Mayo Clinic working with the FDA found a legal basis for this use.  We have every expectation of a positive result.  We cannot thank you enough for all of your thoughts and support! 


Open Letter to James C. Mullen, CEO of Biogen


cc: Lance Armstrong, President Bill Clinton, Senator John Kerry, Senator Tom Harkin, Senator Ted Kennedy, Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach (Head of FDA)

Mr. Mullen, my name is Andrew Baron and my father Frederick (61 yrs. old), who has final stage multiple myeloma has been recommended the drug Tysabri as a last chance effort for life.

Please read this carefully.

Last Thursday, his doctors at the Mayo Clinic determined that he may only have about 24-48 hours to live.

In what can only be defined as a miracle in timing, a few days ago, one of his doctors who has been studying his tumor cells in the lab for years found an antibody with an exact match: Tysabri which is manufactured by your company, Biogen Idec. In the test tube, it attached to the antigens on the surface of the tumor 100%.

Though the drug has never been used before in this way, and because time is running out, the head of the FDA, Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach has granted special approval for use of the drug for this purpose but you have personally decided “no”.

Lance Armstrong, who you spoke with on Friday, has also pleaded with you to say “yes” to my father, but you personally said “no”.

President Bill Clinton, Senator John Kerry, Senator John Harkin, Senator Ted Kennedy, Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach and others who you spoke with on Friday and again yesterday on Monday have all pleaded with you to say “yes”, assuring you that there would be no legal risk and no negative consequences to your company if something went wrong, but you continue to say “no”.

If this drug was rare, scarce, or if people were waiting in line to obtain it, we would not be expecting any privileges. But the drug is readily available, cheap and even sitting in our clinic’s pharmacy just 6 floors below us right now… . All we need is for you to just say “yes” to save his life.

I’m the CEO of my company so I can appreciate the pressure of doing what’s best for your company. Is denying my father access the best thing for your company? How could it be? What’s the risk? 

What is the justification? No one knows. We have gotten back reports from everyone that spoke with you and others at your company and they do not see any justification as to why. All I know is “No because no”.

The very best doctors in the entire world from the Mayo clinic which is one of the most experienced treatment centers in the world have recommended this drug to save my father’s life and it’s the only thing known that could work.

After you refused on Friday, the doctors decided that they must do something, and resorted to another antibody called Campath which is working to prolong his life.

Please Mr. Mullen, there is no time left. There is no justification. Just say yes. 

To anyone else who reads this: Please help! My father is a saint who has given his life and his resources to better humanity. He has spent his entire life seeking to protect the rights of others from harmful death and has spent an enormous amount of money and time in helping to shape our government to protect the rights of people everywhere. He is a philanthropist at heart. 

1. Call Mr. Mullen or anyone at Biogen and ask them to please say yes (or provide a justification for whynot). Speak with anyone in the company in any department that you can find: http://www.biogenidec.com/site/contact.html

2. Contact an elected official and plea with them to call Biogen to seek approval:


3. We have been searching all over the world for international options and continue to look for a country that we could fly to to obtain and administer the drug. Do you know of anywhere that we could go? So far we have found that by law, Biogen controls use in every country that the drug is distributed in.

4. Do you know of any options in alternative medicine?

5. Do you know how we can obtain this drug?

Please comment here, email me at andrew@rocketboom.com or post and discuss here: http://friendfeed.com/rooms/myeloma

We are trying to figure out what to do.

**Update: There is a PR rep from Biogen by the name of Naomi Aoki who has not been willing to respond to me personally (I have not been contacted by anyone in the company), but appears to be out on the other blogs trying to spin this in a positive direction for Biogen. Aoki tries to provide the justification that if something were to go wrong, it would lead to bad marks against Biogen’s trial sessions, and thus jepordize the ability to treat others, but my understanding is that the FDA told Mullen that they would consider a compassionate use case with my Dad to not count against the company. In other words, considering the life and death circumstances, if the drug did not work or if it caused an adverse reaction, the FDA would be willing to exclude this data from any future considerations against the company. Thus it’s my understanding that Biogen has been told that they have nothing to worry about but Mullen decided personally that he did not want to take it in this direction.

Also, for some reason, unlike most other drugs, I have been told that Biogen designed their contract with care providers in a way that prevents any off-label use of Tysabri without the companies approval, a rare stipulation apparently.

** Update II (October 16th, 2008 3:30pm Central) – Thanks to the persistence and hard work of so many friends, Frederick has received Tysabri.  The Mayo Clinic working with the FDA found a legal basis for this use.  We have every expectation of a positive result.  We cannot thank you enough for all of your thoughts and support!


Sony CEO Howard Stringer Talks Global Markets on Charlie Rose

I was so glad to find this *super* interview on Charlie Rose with the CEO of Sony, Howard Stringer. They begin by discussing the international markets and Stringer gives a very articulate perception of the effects of the economic meltdown on a global scale. 

The interview goes on to cover Sony and where we are headed (<-pretty awesome to say ‘we’ as Rocketboom and Sony are partners now). The movie industry and gaming industries are two major strong arms in a recession. The Playstation Network is explained way beyond gaming as a centerpiece for connecting & downloading movies, games, TV programming, music, pics and other media to phones, TV’s and other portables like the PSP and non-Sony devices like the iPhone. Apparent in the interview, Stringer has a great deal of respect for Steve Jobs and Apple.

There is also reference to Crackle but you’ll notice he quickly avoids the topic as the platform is in a stealthy mode right at the moment.

Sony owned OLED screen technology which is way brighter, more energy efficient, and paper thin is expected to be a major part of some of the big things to come.

Even if you are not interested in Sony’s business, Stringers thoughts on the economy are well worth a listen: