Rupert Barkoff, chairman of the franchise team at Atlanta-based law firm Kilpatrick Townsend, died June 5 at age 71. Barkoff joined what was then Kilpatrick & Cody in 1973 and spent his entire career with the firm, establishing its franchise practice and later working to co-found the American Bar Association’s Forum on Franchising.
“Rupert was a true pioneer in the franchise legal community,” said Marc Lieberstein, a partner at Kilpatrick Townsend, as he pointed to Barkoff’s co-authoring of the book “Fundamentals of Franchising” for the ABA as “perhaps Rupert’s most significant contribution to franchising.”
Barkoff published hundreds of articles on franchising throughout this career, noted Chris Bussert, senior counsel at Kilpatrick Townsend and a longtime friend of Barkoff’s. “He may be the most prolific” writer on legal issues in franchising, said Bussert.
“He had a thirst for knowledge in this area, particularly on the transactional side,” Bussert continued. “He always continued to educate himself and learn—and as a result he felt compelled to share his views.”
Barkoff also traveled regularly to Australia, where he spoke at various franchise-related conferences and worked to support new business concept development. He was named to the Franchise Times Legal Eagles ranking every year since its inception in 2004.
Barkoff taught the franchise law course at the University of Georgia and enjoyed being a resource for students, even taking time to meet them before and after class at a nearby coffee shop to “talk with them and learn about their interests,” recalled Bussert.
“Rupert was the consummate people person,” he said, and his interest in getting to know people extended to everyone. “It didn’t matter what side of the case you were on, he wanted to get to know you better, what makes you tick.”
Kitt Shipe called Barkoff her No. 1 mentor and dear friend, and laughed as she recalled being “really intimidated by him” when she interviewed at Kilpatrick Townsend more than 20 years ago.
“He was one of the most well known, respected in his field, senior partners of his group,” said Shipe, who worked with Barkoff at several points throughout her career and is now part of the firm’s franchise practice.
While “90 percent of his waking hours were devoted to thinking about franchising,” Shipe noted Barkoff always remembered people’s birthdays and was “such a family guy.” His office was covered with toys, “puppets, wind-up toys, a huge snow globe collection,” and Shipe recalled a time when she was in a meeting with Barkoff while her 2-year-old son played with his toys.
“Every memory I have of Rupert really has one specific thread that stands out: Wherever we went and whoever we met, Rupert was well known, highly respected and genuinely liked as a gentleman,” said Lieberstein.
Rupert Barkoff was born May 7, 1948 in New Orleans, Louisiana to Martha and Samuel Barkoff. He was a proud graduate of Isidore Newman School (New Orleans), the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor), and the University of Michigan Law School. Attending Michigan football games with his children and grandchildren brought him tremendous joy. Rupert is survived by his wife, Susan; two sisters, Bonnie Mayerson and Susan Kobayashi; three children and their spouses, Stuart and Alison Barkoff, Jeffrey and Marla Barkoff, and Lisa and Tyler Wright; and many grandchildren, nephews, and nieces who affectionately call him “Umps.”
Memorial donations can be made to Isidore Newman School (1903 Jefferson Ave., New Orleans, LA 70115; indicate “In memory of Rupert Barkoff, Class of 1966”) and The University of Michigan Law School (Development & Alumni Relations, 701 South State St., Ann Arbor, Michigan, 48109-3091; indicate “In memory of Rupert Barkoff, JD 1973”).