Mike Novak was remembered as “one of my best friends” by Bob Seger and “a great man by Kid Rock — two of the veteran Detroit entertainment attorney’s high-profile clients.
And, obviously, they don’t say that about just anybody.
Novak, 57, passed away on Sunday at his suburban Detroit home, following a workout.
Seger likened him to a “little brother” since he started to work with the attorney early in his career. “You never met a better guy — at least I didn’t,” Seger added. “I’ve met a lot of people, but I never met anybody better or nicer or kinder or more enthusiastic or more upbeat. Mike always found the positive. He was just a joy to be around.”
Rock wrote in an e-mail that Novak “loved what he did, loved music and loved Detroit. I will miss him.
Novak, a Detroit native, spent nearly three decades in the field. He earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in film studies at New York University in 1977 before getting his law degree from Wayne State University in 1980. Licensed to practice in both Michigan and California, Novak was mentored by Detroit entertainment attorney T. Patrick Freydl and served as a senior vice-president and general counsel for Brass Ring Productions from 1985-2002 before devoting full-time to his own practice.
In addition to Seger and Rock, Novak represented a wide array of individual clients and businesses, including Jeff Daniels’ Purple Rose Theater, of which he was also a founding board member, and several Detroit broadcasters. Novak was also active in Michigan’s burgeoning film industry in recent years and was included in the 2012 Edition of The Best Lawyers in America.
“He wasn’t just a dollars and cents guy like the caricature of so many (attorneys),” noted colleague David Lee. “For every big star, he represented dozens of people from other genres and walks of life who he didn’t make a dime on. That’s the kind of guy he was.”
Drew Lane, morning personality at Detroit’s WRIF-FM and a Novak client since 1997, explained that “Mike being a lawyer is kind of an oxymoron to me, just because he’s such a kind, dependable, honest person. All the lawyer jokes don’t fit him at all. He’s one of those relentlessly positive people — not in a sappy way, just someone who was really upbeat and did so many things for so many people.”
Fellow Detroit-area entertainment attorney Howard Hertz recalled that, “Mike brought a keen sense of business, law and creativity to negotiations. I worked with Mike on many occasions over the years and always appreciated the knowledge and humor he brought to the table.”
Novak’s Facebook page was flooded with tributes as news of his death spread. Seger’s wife Nita posted a note reading, “Words can’t express our deep sadness and the tremendous sense of loss. Always a smile and always so upbeat…The world has lost a truly amazing guy.” Jimmie Bones, keyboardist in Kid Rock’s Twisted Brown Trucker Band, noted that Novak was “a treasure…a talented musician, a passionate fan and most of all a beautiful human being.”
When not in the office, and the courtroom, Novak could be found checking out music — and occasionally playing drums — in clubs, hitting the tables at casinos or on the golf course, where his partners included Seger.
“I played a gazillion rounds of golf with the guy,” Seger recalled. “Every golf course I belonged to, Mike turned me onto. He always liked the way I studied golf equipment; whenever we were out, he’d say, ‘You want an equipment answer, ask Seger.’ And I’d say, ‘You want to know about a course, ask Novak.”
“Mike got along with everybody, and that’s what made him so successful,” said Lee Wulfmeir, a close friend and colleague at the Troy firm of Giarmarco, Mullins & Horton, where Novak was of counsel. “I never heard anyone say a bad word about Mike, ever — and rightfully so. He was one of the kindest, most endearing people, and he was always concerned about his clients.”
Novak is survived by his wife, Loretta, two brothers and a sister. Funeral arrangements are pending.